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Choosing a Strength Coach or Personal Trainer

12 Feb

Would you send your child to a physician who had never been to medical school?  How about a doctor who was never certified in his or her field?

When choosing a strength coach or personal trainer, I would encourage you to apply the same selection criteria.

Since the industry is not regulated, anyone can self-proclaim the title, personal trainer or strength coach.  Much like professionals in other industries, strength and conditioning professionals should have a working knowledge of foundational exercise science and its practical application.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a strength coach or personal trainer:

  • Educational background that includes Exercise Science or Human Performance
  • Accredited Certification (through an organization like the NSCA)
  • Personal Liability Insurance (it’s expensive, but protects both trainer and client)
  • Experience, Expertise (knowledgeable, reputable, credible — ask for references)
  • Training Philosophy

Do your homework, choose appropriately — based on your needs and goals, and inspect what you expect.

Get STRONGER Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Developing Athleticism in Youth Athletes

5 Feb

Athleticism is much more than just being an athlete.  According to Rick Howard, CSCS,*D, “Athleticism refers more to the ability to execute fundamental movements, in either a specific or unpredictable movement pattern at optimum speed with precision, with applicability across sports and physical activities.”

So, how can the development of athleticism be incorporated into youth development?  Howard offers the following suggestions:

Focus on Movement Patterns

The development of movement patterns in youth athletes should be fundamental in nature, and not necessarily sport-specific.  Additionally, the development of physical capacities — balance, coordination, flexibility, agility, control, precision, strength, power, and endurance — should be incorporated into activities from a young age until the athlete reaches physical maturity, at which time the context can shift toward sport-specific physical attributes and long-term athletic development.

Provide Opportunities

All youth should be encouraged to reach the recommended daily amount of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.  Therefore, it is necessary to introduce them to a wide variety of movements in multiple settings, in a combination of structured and unstructured settings.  Encourage participation.

Recognize Achievement

Recognition is encouraging.  Explain and demonstrate appropriately, correct when necessary, and praise generously.

Coaching is the Key

Coaching awareness and education is a critical component of the process.  Coaches need to understand how specific training methodologies fit into the development of physical attributes and fundamental skills.

Create the Proper Environment

It is important to create the proper environment for youth to develop athleticism while continuing to have fun, for both physical and psychosocial well-being.  Positive youth development has been shown to lead to positive adult development.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Add Suspension Training to Your Workout

29 Jan

TRX Training

Suspension training, also known as suspended bodyweight training, has been around for many years, and continues to gain in popularity.  Products such as the TRX, which we use at our facility, have helped bring suspension training to the forefront of the sports performance and fitness industries.

Suspension training differs from traditional training techniques in that it exploits body angleslever systemsgravity (weight of the athlete), and foot or hand positioning.  With its unique design, the TRX supports neuromuscular groups working synergistically by challenging balance, stability, and proprioception.

Suspension training is a functional training tool that can help athletes improve balance, muscle size, strength, power, mobility, and flexibility.  This type of training allows for a wide variety of different exercises, including versions of well-known exercises like the chest press, inverted row, squat, and hamstring curl (the TRX video library has 194 moves from which to choose).

We especially like suspension training because of its ability to increase core muscle activation and engagement, and — depending on the exercise — “teaches” the athlete to transition effectively and efficiently from one plane to another.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

You Can’t Train a Skill to Fatigue

8 Jan

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” – Vince Lombardi

Whether you’re practicing a sport-specific skill or performing speed and agility drills, fatigue will adversely affect your performance.  Adequate rest and recovery are necessary to perform at 100% effort (or close to it) and with optimal technique.

In short, optimal performance requires adequate rest.

“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” – Unknown

Success results from the ability to repeat maximum effort many times.  In order to perform with maximum effort and technically correct form and mechanics, you must allow adequate rest intervals between repetitions and/or sets.  As a general rule, there should be a correlation between the intensity level of the activity and the associated rest interval, with higher intensity exercises and drills followed by longer rest intervals.

I’ve seen drills at basketball practices where players run high-intensity sprints or shuttles followed by free-throw shooting, to simulate game conditions, when they must be able to make foul shots when fatigued late in games.  While there is merit to these drills, players must master the skill —  in this case, free-throw shooting — and develop appropriate muscle-memory before progressing to game-like situations.  Same goes for any other sport-specific skill.

Please note that this strategy does not apply to conditioning, which is another activity, altogether.  If you are performing high-intensity exercises and drills without allowing adequate rest between repetitions and sets, you are not doing skill development or speed and agility training.  There’s nothing wrong with conditioning, as long as conditioning is your goal.

Remember, fatigue prevents skill development.  Learn the skill. Practice the skill with technically correct form and mechanics. Develop the appropriate muscle-memory. Master the skill. Once you’ve accomplished this, then it’s time to progress to game-like simulations and situations.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Getting Stronger is the Foundation

26 Dec

Are you an athlete who desires to improve your performance?  Are any of the items, below, part of your improvement plan?

  • Run faster
  • Jump higher
  • Better agility
  • Throw harder/farther
  • Hit harder
  • Kick harder/farther
  • More powerful
  • Generate more explosive force
  • Improve your sport-specific skill technique
  • Move more efficiently
  • Reduce the potential for injury

If you answered, “yes,” to any of the above, you’ll need to get stronger, because research says, overwhelmingly, that strength development is the common denominator — the foundation — for improvement in any and all of those areas.

Consult with a strength and conditioning professional and develop a well-designed, total body strength training program that the reflects the demands and movement patterns of your sport or activity.  Perform complex exercises that engage multiple muscles and joints — and all major muscle groups — each and every time you workout.  Challenge yourself by increasing the intensity, gradually, at regular intervals.

You’ll still need to invest the time and effort necessary to develop your sport-specific skills.  For example, if you’re a baseball player or golfer, a knowledgeable coach can help you with your swing mechanics and timing.  Strength training will help you to drive the ball.

And you don’t have to be an athlete to reap the benefits of strength training.  Getting stronger improves the body’s efficiency for performing everyday tasks like walking up stairs or carrying groceries, while reducing the incidence of aches, pains, and injuries.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strengthen Your Core with the Inverted Balance Plank

4 Dec

Want to try a challenging, isometric core-strengthening exercise?  Next time you train, add the Inverted Balance Plank to your workout.

Here’s how to do it: Lie on your back, legs straight and feet together, arms folded across your shoulders.  To begin the exercise, elevate your shoulders and back, and legs and feet, so that you’re balancing on your butt.  Keep your shoulders and feet about six inches above the ground.  Brace your core (like you’re preparing to take a punch in the stomach) and hold that position for 30 seconds, or as long as you can.  As you are able, add more time in increments of 15 seconds.  Use this exercise as a workout “finisher.”

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Should Athletes Wear Ankle Braces?

13 Nov

Foot and ankle injuries  — both acute and chronic — are among the most commonly occurring injuries among athletes and other physically active individuals.  According to studies by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), 25% of athletic injuries were foot- and ankle-related; and up to 35% of time lost to injury in running and jumping sports were because of ankle injuries.

Although it’s impossible to prevent every injury, strength, stability, and mobility exercises are beneficial as injury prevention strategies, and as rehabilitation to restore ankle joint muscle strengthrange-of-motion, and neuromuscular coordination.

The question is, should athletes wear ankle braces and, if so, should the use of ankle braces be situational (pre-injury, post-injury)?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine  (NASM) says no — at least not if the athlete has not suffered a previous ankle injury. Braces and tape* should only be used when there has been an injury and the joint needs the additional support. When joints rely on braces or tape for protection, they actually tend to become weaker. When given the opportunity to strengthen through normal usage, the musculotendinous fibers become stronger and can protect the area without the use of a brace or tape.

*Regarding taping, there are several disadvantages. Although taping initially restricts ankle range of motion, the tape loosens within 30 to 60 minutes of application, cannot be reused, and requires training and time to apply properly. Ankle braces are an appealing alternative to taping, as they too restrict ankle motion but can be tightened as needed, are reusable, require minimal training to apply, and can be applied more quickly than tape.

However, there is some evidence that ankle braces may be beneficial to prevent ankle injury. A recent study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health showed that high school basketball players who wore stabilizing lace-up ankle braces had 68 percent fewer injuries than athletes who did not.

Although there is some disagreement about whether or not ankle braces should be worn to prevent ankle injury, most experts agree that ankle braces are beneficial, post-injury.

“Wearing a lace-up ankle brace is effective in reducing ankle injuries in high school basketball players regardless of age, sex (male or female), or body mass index (body weight for size). The protective effect of this simple device also helps athletes who have already had a previous ankle injury from reinjuring that ankle again. This is good news since ankle reinjury is a common problem in athletes.” (Timothy A. McGuine, PhD, ATC, et al. The Effect of Lace-Up Ankle Braces on Injury Rates in High School Basketball Players. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. September 2011. Vol. 39. No. 9. Pp. 1840-1848)

Ankle braces help prevent injury by restricting motion, but those restrictions don’t necessarily result in negative effects on athletic performance. Evidence suggests that while agility may be affected with use of an ankle brace, vertical jump and balance skills may not.

Calf raises are an easy and effective ways to strengthen and stabilize your ankles.  Single-leg balance exercises, performed on an unstable surface (like an Airex balance pad), can “teach” the ankle to adapt and adjust to instability, reducing the incidence of ankle rolls, sprains, etc.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Fit is Good, Strong is Better

8 Nov

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Strength training is the way to go.

In addition to improving the way you look, feel, and function, there continues to emerge compelling evidence that strength-based training also benefits long-term health and well-being.

The problem… ?  The vast majority of adults neglect to do even the minimum recommended amount of strength-based exercise.

Here is another resource – a large Australian study – providing support for strength-promoting exercise:

Push ups and sit ups could add years to your life according to a new study of over 80,000 adults led by the University of Sydney.

The largest study to compare the mortality outcomes of different types of exercise found people who did strength-based exercise had a 23 percent reduction in risk of premature death by any means, and a 31 percent reduction in cancer-related death.

Lead author Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre said while strength training has been given some attention for functional benefits as we age, little research has looked at its impact on mortality.

“The study shows exercise that promotes muscular strength may be just as important for health as aerobic activities like jogging or cycling,” said Associate Professor Stamatakis.

“And assuming our findings reflect cause and effect relationships, it may be even more vital when it comes to reducing risk of death from cancer.”

The World Health Organization’s Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity, plus two days of muscle strengthening activities each week.

Associate Professor Stamatakis said governments and public health authorities have neglected to promote strength-based guidelines in the community, and as such misrepresented how active we are as a nation.

He cites the example of The Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey which, based on aerobic activity alone, reports inactivity at 53 percent. However, when the World Health Organization’s (WHO) strength-based guidelines are also taken into account, 85 percent of Australians fail to meet recommendations.

“Unfortunately, less than 19 percent of Australian adults do the recommended amount of strength-based exercise,” said Associate Professor Stamatakis.

“Our message to date has just been to get moving but this study prompts a rethink about, when appropriate, expanding the kinds of exercise we are encouraging for long-term health and well-being.”

The analysis also showed exercises performed using one’s own body weight without specific equipment were just as effective as gym-based training.

“When people think of strength training they instantly think of doing weights in a gym, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

“Many people are intimidated by gyms, the costs or the culture they promote, so it’s great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits.”

The research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology today, is based on a pooled population sample of over 80,306 adults with data drawn from the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey, linked with the NHS Central Mortality Register.

The study was observational, however adjustments were made to reduce the influence of other factors such as age, sex, health status, lifestyle behaviours and education level. All participants with established cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline and those who passed away in the first two years of follow up were excluded from the study to reduce the possibility of skewing results due to those with pre-existing conditions participating in less exercise.

Summary of key findings:

  • participation in any strength-promoting exercise was associated with a 23 percent reduction in all-cause mortality and a 31 percent reduction in cancer mortality
  • own bodyweight exercises that can be performed in any setting without equipment yielded comparable results to gym-based activities
  • adherence to WHO’s strength-promoting exercise guideline alone was associated with reduced risk of cancer-related death, but adherence to the WHO’s aerobic physical activity guideline alone was not
  • adherence to WHO’s strength-promoting exercise and aerobic guidelines combined was associated with a greater risk reduction in mortality than aerobic physical activity alone
  • there was no evidence of an association between strength-promoting exercise and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Take the Negative Chinup/Dip Challenge

1 Nov

Want to challenge yourself in the weight room and improve your strength and fitness?  Try the Men’s Health Negative Chinup/Dip Challenge.  The goal of this challenge is to do 1 negative dip and 1 negative chinup.  Sounds simple enough, right?

First, some background: Eccentric training, which involves focusing on the lowering (or, “negative”) phase of an exercise, can potentially trigger greater strength gains than concentric (lifting-focused) training, according to Ellington Darden, Ph.D. and author of The Body Fat Breakthrough.

“Your muscles can handle more weight during the lowering phase,” Darden says. “And if you draw out that phase to a minute, as you will with the negative dip and negative chinup, you can recruit up to 40 percent more muscle fibers and enjoy a surge in muscle-building hormones.” The result: more power and strength in significantly less time.

Here’s how to perform these exercises:

Negative Chinup

Grab the bar using a shoulder-width, underhand grip and hang at arm’s length with your ankles crossed behind you. Pull your chest up to the bar. Lower yourself slowly, half an inch at a time.

Negative Dip

Grab the bars of a dip station and lift yourself so your arms are straight. Lean forward slightly and lower your body slowly — half an inch at a time — until your upper arms are below your elbows.

The Challenge: You’ll be completing only two reps total (one per move), but they’ll probably be two of the hardest reps you’ve ever done. “Take one minute to lower yourself for each exercise, and rest two minutes between them,” says Darden. If you can’t last longer than 30 seconds, your eccentric strength needs a lot of work.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Performance With Single-Leg Exercises

6 Oct

Bulgarian Split Squat (down)

Bulgarian Split Squat (up)

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we know it’s important to incorporate single-leg exercises into an athlete’s training regimen.  We alternate, weekly, between bilateral and unilateral exercises, to improve strength, power, mobility, and balance/stability.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that all athletes might need to do more single-leg exercises.  In the study, researchers discovered that both jumpers’ (e.g., basketball, volleyball) and nonjumpers’ legs were not equally strong.  The natural tendency is for athletes to shift their weight, to some degree, to their dominant leg.  According to the study, that contributes to a strength imbalance that can hurt performance and lead to injuries.

Try different single-leg exercises, like lunges (stationary or walking; forward, backward, or lateral).

At APTC, we favor the single-leg squatsingle-leg pressstep-up, and Bulgarian split squat (rear foot elevated).  Perform 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a weight that is challenging but reasonable.

As you might imagine, the same principle applies to upper-body strength training.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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