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Eccentric Training Improves Strength and Force Development

16 Nov

Bench%20Press%20with%20Spotter[1]Eccentric (ECC) actions, when emphasized during resistance training, may elicit greater strength adaptation, muscular hypertrophy, acute increases in subsequent concentric (CON) force capabilities, and favorable acute inflammatory response compared with traditional ECC/CON actions and CON muscle actions alone,” according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Kelly, et.al.)

Multiple studies show that athletes can augment traditional, concentric training with eccentric training to increase force capabilities.

The eccentric phase of an exercise (also known as the negative phase) is usually when the weight is lowered in preparation for the next concentric (push) action.  For example, an eccentric bench press would consist of lowering a barbell from a fully extended elbow position to the chest in a continuous, controlled manner for 3-4 seconds.

Try adding an eccentric set to your usual training.  If you usually perform three sets of a particular exercise, make the last set an eccentric set.

Or, make one training day per week an eccentric training day.  If you train three days per week, perform all exercises and sets eccentrically on your middle day.

For more advanced, proficient athletes (in the weight room), if you have access to a spotter or two, try overload eccentric training, using 100% or more of your 1RM.  (Note — a spotter is usually a good idea for many exercises, including weighted exercises done eccentrically, even with lighter loads)

This strategy is not only for weighted exercises.  Eccentric training also works well with body-weight exercises, such as the squat, pushup, chinup, dip, etc.

When is comes to strength training — think negative, gain positive.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Improve Leg Strength with Plyometric Training

28 Sep

box-jump[1]

Box Jump

Want to improve your leg strength?  Add some hopping, skipping, jumping, and bounding to your workouts.

Just six weeks of plyometric (jump) training resulted in a 10% increase in leg strength, according to research from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Squat jumps, broad jumps, box jumps, depth jumps, and hurdle hops can be easily incorporated into a workout.

Plyometric training is typically high-intensity, especially as compared to traditional, ground-based strength training.  Factors that influence the intensity of lower-body plyometric drills include points of contact (and commensurate stress on muscles, connective tissues, and joints); speed; height of the drill; and the participant’s weight.

Plyometric training sessions should generally be limited to two (2) per week, even if you are strength training with greater frequency.  A day (or more) of rest between jump training sessions is recommended.

Here are the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) guidelines for appropriate plyometric training volume based on experience:

  • Beginner (no experience) = 80-100 “touches” (every time your feet land on the ground or other surface, it’s counted as one touch)
  • Intermediate (some experience) = 100-120 touches
  • Advanced (considerable experience) = 120-140 touches

Always make sure you warm up properly, wear appropriate footwear, and choose a safe, shock-absorbing landing surface (grass field, suspended floor, rubber mat, etc.) to prevent injuries.

Then get up off your feet and get some air.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Flexibility Training May Reduce Strength Development

21 Sep

429_2[1]Be careful about how much flexibility training you do, especially if you play a power sport.

Research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research corroborates volumes of previous data, showing that flexibility training may reduce strength development.

In the study, Thalita, et.al., concluded that “combining strength and flexibility training is not detrimental to flexibility development; however, combined training may reduce strength development.”

Scores of previous studies have demonstrated that flexibility training elongates and relaxes muscles, diminishing their ability to generate strength and power, especially in the short-term.

Avoid pre- and post-workout stretching; opt instead for dynamic warmup, foam rolling, and movement-based cool down to enhance blood flow to tissues, and increase mobility and range-of-motion.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Training Variety Stimulates Strength Development

31 Aug

Football-Team-Lifting-300x200[1]“Novelty or training variety are important for stimulating further strength development,” according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Harries, et. al.)

Although this information is not necessarily new, it reinforces the fact that a good strength and conditioning program should incorporate variety of exercise selection; and be periodized and progressive, in order to ensure the athlete’s physical growth and development.

Training periodization is a program design strategy in which the strength and conditioning professional incorporates variations in training specificity, intensity, and volume organized in planned periods or cycles within an overall program, to promote long-term training and performance improvements.

An example of a practical application of training periodization to an athlete’s sport season would be to adapt his or her training to address the relative demands of the sport — over an entire year — including the off-season, pre-season, in-season, and post-season phases.

Obviously, the goal of a periodized training strategy is to help the athlete achieve and maintain optimal strength and power during his or her competition period (in-season phase).  Typically, this requires further increases in training intensity with additional decreases in training volume.

As the athlete adapts to the training stimulus, the strength and conditioning professional must have a strategy of advancing the exercise loads so that improvements will continue over time.  This is referred to as training progression.

A conservative method that can be used to increase an athlete’s training load is called the 2-for-2 rule.  If the athlete can perform two or more repetitions over his or her assigned repetition goal in the last set in two consecutive workouts for a certain exercise, weight should be added to that exercise for the next training session.  (Baechle, T. and Earle, R.; Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning)

It’s worthwhile to note that post-exercise muscle soreness is related to training variety more than intensity or volume.  For this reason, strength and conditioning professionals should be careful about adding excessive, novel training movements during the athlete’s in-season phase.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Improve Lower-Body Power with Resistance Band Warmup

10 Aug

0809_posterA1_200x200[1]Pre-workout warmup with an elastic resistance band (band squat) is just as effective as the barbell box squat, in augmenting acute jump power, according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  Both modes of warmup were superior to static stretching.

Power output significantly decreased from pre-warmup to post-warmup for the static stretch protocol.  The static stretch was detrimental to jump performance.  There is a consensus in the scientific literature to suggest a negative relationship between static stretching and acute power performance (sprinting, jumping, etc.).

The barbell box squat protocol involved 3 sets of 3RM; the band squat protocol involved 3 sets of 3 repetitions using highest resistance elastic bands; and the static stretch protocol used two 30-second stretches of muscles of the lower limbs.

Since elastic resistance bands are relatively inexpensive, portable, and accessible (compared to less transportable equipment like squat racks and free weights), strength and conditioning professionals may consider them for athletes training at various competition levels.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Build Power and Speed with Horizontal Jumps

27 Jul

StandingLongJump[1]There is a positive correlation between vertical and horizontal jumps (broad jumps, standing long jumps) and muscular performance in athletes, according to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR).

At our facility, we favor contrast training — a strength exercise immediately followed by a biomechanically similar power (explosive) exercise; for example, the squat followed by the squat jump.  Our athletes perform vertical and horizontal jumps, and plyometrics as the preferred modes of lower-body power training.

In the JSCR study, both vertical and horizontal jumps showed a significant correlation to sprint speed.  Bilateral and unilateral (single-leg) countermovement jumps, drop jumps, and squat jumps improved muscle architecture and sprint performance.

Unilateral jumps appear to have an even larger correlation to sprint speed than their bilateral counterparts.

In addition to the aforementioned benefits of vertical and horizontal jumps, they are beneficial and effective for injury risk reduction, given their appropriate focus on deceleration and landing mechanics.

Based on this information, strength and conditioning professionals can further improve their athletes’ performance by incorporating horizontal jumps — including unilateral jumps — into their training regimen.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

You Can’t Do It All in the Weight Room

20 Jul

Speed-Resistance-Training-Parachute-1[1]Strength and speed development start in the weight room.  Stronger and faster is the foundation for athletic performance improvement.

But you can’t do it all in the weight room.  What you do outside the weight room will also have an impact on your performance.  Speed and agility training, sport-specific skill development, nutrition, rest and recovery, and mental preparation also complement and play an important role in your development as an athlete.

Speed and Agility Training

Speed development involves a combination of 3 components:

  • Technique — running form and mechanics
  • Assisted and resisted sprinting
  • Strength and power training, including plyometrics

Agility training utilizes exercises and drills that require acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and reaction.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

Strong and fast is important, but it won’t help you overcome weak ball-handling and shooting skills.  Regardless of the sport(s) you play, skills practice — with proper technique and lots of repetition — will be critical to your progress and success as an athlete.  Time spent on the court, in the batting cage, etc. should focus on quality, and a knowledgeable, experienced coach or trainer can be a valuable resource to make the developmental process more efficient and effective.  Video is also a great tool for performance development (the camera never lies).

Nutrition

Eating the right foods — quantity and quality — is important for two reasons: energy and recovery.  Before you exercise, practice, or play, your nutritional choices help to ensure that you will have adequate energy to perform optimally.  Afterward, the proper balance of nutrients helps with your body’s recovery process, preparing your body for next time.  You should aim to get most of your nutrients from whole foods, and nutritional supplements (multi-vitamin, protein) can also be helpful — especially since active individuals and athletes have a considerably higher need for nutrients to support an active metabolism.

Rest and Recovery

When it comes to strength and speed development, more is not necessarily better.  The goal should be to avoid burnout and injury caused by over-training, doing as much as you need to do to reach your performance goals, and not necessarily as much as you can (please note this does not mean do as little as you can).  Since training places physical and metabolic stress on your body, rest and recovery is necessary for your musculoskeletal system’s regenerative process.  Generally, there is a correlation between the intensity of your training and the amount of rest required by your body to continue to perform at an optimal level.  Make sure you allow for adequate rest during and between workouts, and get a good night’s sleep.

Mental Preparation

In addition to preparing your body, you’ve got to prepare your mind.  Elements of effective mental preparation include goal setting, visualization, focus, confidence, and commitment.  Be a smart athlete — a student of the game.  Be positive and adaptable, and utilize positive self-talk as a motivator.  Expect success and prepare accordingly.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Getting Athletes to Perform at Their Best

29 Jun

-678325aa59aad8ba[1]Twelve years ago — after a 20-year career in the pharmaceutical industry — I began pursuit of a dream.  My dream was fueled by my four children, all capable student-athletes.  I wanted to help them train for their sports, improve their performance, and reduce their risk of injury; teach them the value of working toward a goal; and help them develop a competitive edge.  I expanded my reach to their friends and teammates; interacted and learned from other trainers, coaches, and administrators; and got to work providing evidence-based Strength and Conditioning for anyone interested, willing, and committed to improving their athletic performance.  That was the beginning of what has now become my passion; working with athletes in pursuit of stronger, faster, and better.  That was the birth of Athletic Performance Training Center (APTC).

As we expand and grow, the APTC dream continues to grow.  We work (and have worked) with thousands of athletes – scholastic athletes (as young as age 5), collegiate athletes, and professional athletes.  We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many dedicated clients.

Over the past 12+ years, APTC has helped prepare athletes for the “next level” whether that is high school, college, or the pros.  We have been called upon to prepare athletes for college and professional pro days and combines.  If you are an aspiring athlete, and looking to go to the next level, here is some advice  — stuff that I’ve learned over the past dozen years in the industry.  There’s more to athletic performance than you think.

It’s More Than Just Hard Work

It’s important to work hard, but you’ve also got to work smart.  Most athletes believe if they work hard — in the weight room and on the court or field — they can be successful.  Unfortunately, this antiquated way of thinking is probably not going to get athletes to the top of their game.  Working hard in the weight room won’t get you far if your plan — including exercise selection, intensity, sets, reps, rest intervals, etc. — is not aligned with your goal.  Likewise, you can practice your ball-handling and shooting in the gym all day; but if you’re practicing with flawed form, mechanics, and technique, your improvement will be limited, at best.  And, of course, in addition to physical training, factors like nutrition, rest, and mental preparation will have a considerable effect on your performance.  This is where a knowledgeable strength and/or skills coach can be an asset by providing quality guidance and direction.

It’s More Than Just Off-Season Training

Training is not a “sometime” thing; it is an “all the time” thing — it’s year-round.  You need to train during the off-season, pre-season, and in-season (with appropriate intensity, frequency, volume, and rest along the way); and it’s important to have a periodized, progressive plan to address each stage of training.  This can become somewhat complicated when athletes play multiple sports throughout the year (and claim not to have the time), but a knowledgeable trainer can develop an effective plan to address each cycle to ensure optimal performance.  If athletes are not training, they are not improving.  And if they are not improving, they are compromising their potential.  During the season, it’s important to incorporate one or two lifting sessions per week to maintain the gains they made in the off-season.  In-season training helps athletes enhance recovery from their sport practices and games; protects against getting “worn down” over the course of the season; and helps keep muscles and joints strong to reduce the risk of injury.

It’s More Than Just the Bench Press and Biceps Curl

Don’t get me wrong, the bench press is a great upper body exercise, but your training shouldn’t revolve around your chest and arms.  Strength and power — for any sport — emanate from the core, specifically the lower core.  The hips, quadriceps, and posterior chain — lower-back, glutes, and hamstrings —  are crucial to your performance.  If you are strong throughout your core, you have the potential to be a strong, fast, and powerful athlete.  If you are not strong throughout this area, there’s nothing you can do to compensate for it.  Weakness in the muscles of your core and posterior chain also puts you at a greater risk for injury.  Squats, deadlifts, glute-ham raises, and Romanian deadlifts are excellent exercises for the core and posterior chain musculature.

Warmup is More Than Just Stretching

Prior to every strength and/or speed training session, make sure you warmup properly.  That means more than just a quick lap around the track or a few quick stretches.  The best, knowledgeable athletes, trainers, and coaches know that performing a dynamic (movement-based) warmup — before training, practices, or games — is the way to go.  Dynamic warmup involves movements that reflect and support the demands and movement patterns of your workout or sport-specific activity.  It increases temperature of and blood flow to working muscles; improves mobility and range-of-motion; and decreases the chance of injury.  Static stretching is an outdated mode of warmup that has been found to reduce strength and power production in the short-term; relax and elongate working muscles (thus not preparing them for force production); and it does not reduce the incidence of injury, nor does it help minimize post-workout soreness.  If you absolutely insist on static stretching, do it after practice and training.

Speed is More Than Just Running

Speed is a skill, and speed development starts in the weight room.  Speed requires strength and power training.  The stronger and more powerful you are throughout your core and lower extremities, the more force you can generate against the ground, which translates to speed, agility, and vertical jump ability.  Additionally, technique is a vital component of speed.  When speed training, athletes need to perform exercises and drills with perfect form and mechanics.  Head position, arm action, leg drive, stride frequency, and stride length are all factors that influence running speed.  Without an understanding of the right way to approach speed and agility training, it will be difficult to achieve your potential as an athlete.

It’s More Than Just You

Finally, if you are committed to being the best you can be, you won’t be able to do it without some help.  In addition to the support of your family and friends, you should look to find competent, qualified individuals with experience and expertise in the areas of strength and conditioning, and sport-specific skill development.  It’s important to have a plan, and equally important for your plan to be aligned with your goals.  There’s a big difference between activity and productivity; all movement is not progress.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Is AM Fasted Cardio for You?

19 Jun

early-morning-workout-tips-300x200[1]I’m a fan of morning workouts.  I think they’re the best, and there’s a lot of scientific research to support the benefits of morning exercise.  AM training sets the tone for your entire day — physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally.  Exercising in the morning just feels good.

And, for our athletes whose goals include strength, speed, and power development, I recommend never training on an empty stomach (as is supported by the scientific literature).

But what if your exercise goals involve weight/fat loss?

There is a debate among exercise science cognoscenti as to whether or not to consume carbohydrates prior to fat-burning exercise.  In other words, should you do morning training on a fasted (empty) stomach or after breakfast?

During cardiovascular exercise, a significant portion of your energy production comes from burning fat. When your diet is higher in protein and fat, your muscle adapts by more effectively utilizing fat and sparing muscle glycogen (the stored form of glucose). Additionally, cardiovascular exercise improves your muscle’s ability to use fat for energy while sparing breakdown of muscle protein. The percentage of carbs used during cardiovascular exercise increases when your diet is high in carbs.

After a night of sleep, fat is available for energy because liver glycogen stores are somewhat depleted by the overnight fast. This means there is less available glucose to burn as fuel and your muscle goes to other sources of fuel — fat or muscle. During cardiovascular exercise, fat is released from stores, resulting in more fat to be available for working muscles. If a carb-rich meal is consumed prior to the workout, glucose becomes the preferred energy source and fat-moving enzymes are shut down by the rise in the hormone insulin, which facilitates conversion of absorbed glucose into stored fat and glycogen.

It is reasonable to infer that eating glucose (carbohydrates) prior to exercise intended to burn fat (i.e., cardiovascular exercise) is counterproductive. Research supports that fat burning is greater in a fasted state vs. a fed state and that fasted cardio improves the contribution of intramuscular fats used in energy production during cardiovascular training.

In other words, research supports that fat burning is greater in the fasted state than in the fed state.

Fasted training improves the muscle’s ability to burn fat more than similar exercise done with prior carb intake. Perhaps more crucial for the low-carb dieter, fasted-state cardio prevents the drop in blood glucose seen in exercise after a carb meal. This avoids the crash that can occur when training after eating sugars or carbs.

Please keep in mind that fasted cardio is just that: It only applies to cardiovascular exercise and not to high-intensity strength and power training.  Athletes who are training to improve performance should always eat prior to a workout, and never train on an empty stomach.

If you’re an athlete who wants to get stronger, faster, and more powerful, make sure you eat appropriately prior to training.

However, if your goal is to burn fat, give fasted morning cardio a try.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

Tips for Post-Workout Recovery

1 Jun

How%20to%20prevent%20this%20post-workout%20pain[1]Post-workout muscle soreness (pain and stiffness that peaks 24–72 hours post-workout), also known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a mostly normal after-effect of exercise or exertion.  DOMS is less related to the intensity of a workout, and more attributable to the “newness” or variety of movement.  New and different exercises, drills, and movement patterns seem to have greater potential to induce post-exercise soreness than familiar exercises, even at higher intensity levels.

And, while experts agree that there’s nothing you can do to completely alleviate post-workout soreness, there are some strategies that may improve treatment and recovery of sore muscles — before, during, and after your workout.

Here’s a resource titled, Fuel Your Sore Muscles, that provides some insight and tips for managing post-exercise soreness.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that rest is a vital component of the muscle- and strength-building process.  Sore muscles need time to heal and recover.

Your thoughts?

WE WILL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER ATHLETE!

We provide motivated athletes with a simple, customized training plan to help them improve performance and reduce injury risk.

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