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Are You Overtraining?

1 Oct

A well-designed, periodized Strength & Conditioning program directs training strategies and recovery activities throughout the athlete’s off-season, pre-season, and in-season phases, to optimize performance and minimize fatigue.

But training doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and athletes often have to balance other factors, such as school-based team training/workouts, open gyms, etc. (not to mention family obligations, homework, studying, and part-time jobs)

Currently, my high school boys and girls basketball players train with me 2-3 days a week.  They are also expected to participate in “voluntary” team-based Strength & Conditioning activity at their schools (a discussion for another day) – usually 2 days a week – and 2-day-a-week open gym workouts.

So how much is enough and how much is too much?

Here’s a resource – An Overtraining Scale – from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Strength and Conditioning Journal that provides some insight into the subject of overtraining.

 

It’s important to understand that you shouldn’t “pre-determine” your training activity, relative to time off training.  For example, don’t make a decision to skip your Saturday workout just because you have a practice scheduled for Friday, without knowing how you’re going to feel Friday or Saturday.  This is where mental discipline becomes important.

Also understand that you’re going to have to work hard to achieve your goals.  You’re going to have to (reasonably) work through some fatigue – both mental and physical.  That’s how champions are made.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Take Your Plank to the Next Level

24 Sep

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we really like the plank exercise and several of its variations.  Unlike traditional crunches and situps, the plank — done correctly — engages, strengthens, and stabilizes your entire core, shoulders to hips (and they’re easier on the back and hips).

I recently found this article titled, 47 Plank Variations for a Killer Core, which provides beginner, intermediate, and advanced level variations of this versatile, bodyweight exercise.

Check it out and give ’em a try.

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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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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Give Your Brain a “Spark” with Exercise

2 Jul

mental-training[1]In his book, SPARK — The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, author John J. Ratey, MD discusses how exercise can “supercharge your mental circuits to beat stress, sharpen your thinking, lift your mood, boost your memory, and much more.” (Special thanks to my friend and colleague, John Garvey, CSCS, for sending me a copy!)

Ratey offers incontrovertible evidence that aerobic exercise actually “physically remodels our brains for peak performance.”

SPARK provides research to prove that exercise is truly our best defense against everything from mood disorders to Alzheimer’s; from ADHD to addiction.

The author also explores, comprehensively, the link between exercise and the brain, and a simple, targeted regimen to get your body moving and your mind in peak condition — growing your brain cells and building your brain in the process.

If you have even a passing interest in exercise and fitness, I would highly recommend and encourage you to check out this fascinating book.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Build Explosive Power with this Medicine Ball Exercise

11 Jun

Medicine ball throws are great for developing explosive power, and can be used as an alternative to Olympic lifts.  These exercises strengthen and stabilize the core musculature, reinforce the biomechanics of force generation, reflect the demands and movement patterns of many sports, and can be performed in virtually every plane of motion.

Here’s one of the total-body exercises we use with our athletes to build explosive power.  This triple extension exercise is basically a heavy medicine ball clean and jerk, immediately followed by a forceful vertical or horizontal push/throw.

In the first video, Julianne — one of our high school basketball players — demonstrates the exercise with a 25 lb. medicine ball and a vertical throw, pushing the ball as high as she can.  Note how she uses her hips and legs (with minimal bend at the waist and back involvement) to get under the ball and generate force.

In the second video, Julianne uses the same medicine ball with a horizontal throw, pushing the ball as far as she can.  Mechanics and technique — hip and leg drive — are similar to the first exercise.

We have our athletes perform 3 sets of 4 repetitions, with a one minute rest between sets.  Typically, these types of (power) exercises are placed at the beginning of a workout, following an appropriate, dynamic warmup.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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3 Essential Steps to Build Muscle Strength and Size

4 Jun

Straight Bar Deadlift

The fastest way to build muscle strength and size is good old-fashioned strength training, done right. Over time, strength training challenges your muscles by breaking them down so they repair and recover bigger and stronger than before.

To be optimally effective, strength training must be combined with proper nutrition and rest. Although there are some strategies to accelerate the process, there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work and follow the plan.

Nutrition

Without proper nutrition, you will compromise any muscle strength and size gains you hope to achieve. Simply stated, your body needs the raw material that food provides for growth.

It’s essential to eat sufficient calories, as well as carbs and protein, 30 to 90 minutes before and after working out. For every pound you weigh, aim for 0.8 grams of lean protein per day; whole grain and high fiber carbs; and healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, nuts, and salmon.

Weight Lifting

You’ll need to work out three or four days per week to reach your goal. Here are some guidelines to get you on your way:

Favor compound movements over single-joint movements: compound exercises, like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses and Inverted Rows, involve more than one joint and engage multiple muscle groups. Triceps Extensions and Biceps Curls are single-joint isolation exercises. Compound exercises require greater muscle activation, recruit larger muscle groups, and stimulate strength and size gains.

Lift heavy weights: if you want to build muscle fast, you need to push your body to use as many muscle fibers as possible during exercise. Lifting heavy weights allows you to challenge your muscles, which is the key to making strength and size gains.

For any given exercise, build strength and power by using a weight that you can lift no more than 4-6 repetitions per set; build muscle size by using a weight that you can lift 8-12 reps per set; and build muscle endurance by using a weight you can lift 15+ reps per set.  If you can perform more repetitions than that, the weight is too light and you will fail to make gains.

Try supersets: we emphasize supersets at Athletic Performance Training Center. By pairing push and pull exercises, you are able to work twice as many muscles in a time-efficient manner to help build overall muscle strength and size.

Rest

Several different rest factors must be considered in your training:

  • Get a good night’s sleep, seven to eight hours each night.
  • Do not rework a muscle group until it has the chance to recover for 48 hours.
  • Rest between sets to allow your muscles to recover so you get the most out of each set. As a general rule, the higher the intensity of your workout (the more weight you lift) the longer your rest interval should be.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Make Waves to Get Stronger

7 May

At our facility, the goal is always the same — improve athletic performance and fitness through the development of strength and conditioning.  But we use a wide variety of tools to help our clients reach (and exceed) their goals.

Heavy ropes are one of the tools we use to improve strength, muscular endurance, and build lean muscle mass.  They work each arm independently, eliminating strength imbalances, and provide a great cardio-metabolic workout in the process.

Heavy ropes are available in a variety of lengths and thicknesses, but a 50-foot, 1 & 1/2-inch-thick rope tends to work best for most people.  You can purchase them from a fitness retailer or website, or make your own.  To anchor it, just loop it around a pole.

Here are some heavy ropes training tips:

  • Don’t just wave the ropes up and down.  Different motions will work different muscles and skills.  Swing the ropes in circles, side-to-side, or diagonally.  Alternate between simultaneous and alternating swings.
  • Use the ropes anytime during your workout.  Heavy ropes can be used for a dynamic warmup, finisher, or an entire workout in and of themselves.
  • Adjust the resistance by moving closer to or farther away from the anchor point.  The amount of slack in the rope determines the load.  Moving toward the anchor point (more slack) increases the intensity.
  • Switch your grip.  Hold the rope underhand, overhand, or double (fold over) the ends.
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart; to start, hold the ends of the rope at arm’s length in front of your hips; knees bent, hips down and back, chin up, chest up.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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