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Get Stronger, Faster with Triple Extension Training

7 Oct

squat-jump2[1]“Triple extension” refers to a type of exercise training movement used to develop lower-extremity explosive power and force production. Triple extension training involves the hips, the knees, and the ankles. When executing a triple extension movement, all three sets of joints move from a flexed (bent) position to an extended (straight) position.  Thus, triple extension movements involve the flexion and subsequent forceful extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joints.

I am an advocate of triple extension training for the development of lower-body strength, speed, and explosive power, for virtually all athletes. Triple extension training is important for all athletes, as this movement is executed when running, jumping, kicking, swimming, throwing, hitting, blocking, and tackling.  Specifically, jumping in basketball and volleyball: pushing off the back leg to throw in baseball and football; driving through a block or tackle in football; even pushing off during swimming and diving are examples of how this movement applies to sports. Because of its broad application, triple extension training is a great way to prepare and develop the body for such explosive movements by conditioning the muscles and ligaments for these types of movements.

Ultimately, triple extension exercises build lower-extremity strength and power, increasing the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground, providing the means to run faster; jump higher; and accelerate, decelerate, and change direction more quickly, effectively, and efficiently.

The following exercises are a few examples of movements that employ triple extension:

  • Olympic lifts, such as cleans and snatches
  • Plyometrics, such as squat jumps and box jumps
  • Traditional strength training exercises such as squats and deadlifts
  • Non-traditional strength training exercises, such as  kettlebell swings and tire flips

Because these exercises are higher intensity and require greater energy expenditure, they should be performed at the beginning of your workout, after an appropriate warm-up.  Don’t go overboard with the amount of weight you use to perform these exercises. The benefits of triple extension exercises can be realized with relatively light weight. The key is to employ a full range of motion and try to execute each rep under control. Any of the exercises (above) performed with light-to-moderate weight can improve your strength and power.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Don’t Let the Scale Define You

23 Sep

weight-loss[1]While I realize (statistics indicate) the average American can stand to lose a few pounds, the scale doesn’t always tell the entire story.

Your body weight is not a reflection of your worth.  It’s more productive to focus on eating clean (and not overeating), exercising, improving strength and mobility, increasing energy, and NOT a number on a scale.

There’s not necessarily a definitive relationship between body weight and overall health.  A person can have a healthy body weight, yet eat (qualitatively) poorly and be relatively physically inactive.

I don’t do a lot with scales and body weight at our facility.  I would rather concentrate on how people feel, function, and perform.  Keep in mind muscle takes up less space but weighs more than fat.

“Healthy” is not limited to any particular shape, size, or weight.  At least some of that is determined by genetics, anyway.

Part of the problem is our referent.  We try to compare ourselves with others  — unfairly and unrealistically —  instead of aspiring toward self-improvement: being better today than we were yesterday.

We all want to look and feel good, but the fads and gimmicks we chase to get there are not the answer.  In simple terms, eat cleaner, eat less, be more active, and exercise more.

An examination of ounces and pounds shouldn’t start your day any more than it should end it.  Don’t let the scale deflate your efforts if you know you’re on the right track with your nutrition and exercise plans.

Even if weight loss is part of your plan (and it’s okay if it is), detach the number on the scale from how you feel about you.  Be fair to yourself, eat well, stay active, and stay on track.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Post-Workout Recovery — The Right Way

26 Aug

TruMoo-Choc_Protein-Plus-350[1]Whether you’ve just finished strength training, speed training, or a rigorous sport practice, recovering smart should be part of your plan.

Since high-intensity training tends to break down muscle, the recovery process is important to ensure that you come back stronger next time.  Here are some tips for a productive post-workout recovery:

REFUEL

Avoid junk food and opt instead for whole foods and drinks.  We like low-fat chocolate milk.  It boasts high-quality protein, several important nutrients, and an ideal 3:1 carb to protein ratio.

REST

Give your body — and your mind — some time off to rest before your next bout of exercise.  Keep in mind rest phase = growth phase.

BEGIN GRADUALLY

Don’t jump into a high-intensity workout right away.  An appropriate and effective warm-up can improve your odds of staying injury-free.  Build your volume and intensity, gradually.

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY

When you’re training, listen to the feedback your body gives you.  If you feel like you’re getting sick, run down, or injured, reduce your training load or take the day off.

HAVE A GOAL

Don’t just train to train.  Give yourself something to train for.  Develop a plan that is aligned with your goal and stay on track.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Mobility: Make Your Workouts More Functional

19 Aug

functional_training3[1]

Physioball Weight Roll

We focus on functional training for our athletes.  That means movement-based — and not muscle-based — exercises make up the majority of every athlete’s workout.  In addition to developing strength, speed, agility, and athleticism, we want our athletes to improve mobility, balance, coordination, and stability.  All these components contribute to a more powerful, capable athlete.

Ultimately, the athlete’s training should reflect and support the demands and movement patterns of his or her sport.

Better mobility helps athletes reduce the incidence of injury, and also gives players a considerable advantage on the court or field.  Hip and ankle mobility are important for explosive movements like sprinting; accelerating and decelerating; changing direction; and blocking and tackling.

  • Unilateral exercises (those which load one side of the body at a time), like single-arm presses and single-leg squats, are probably more reflective of sports performance than traditional bilateral exercises (loading both sides equally).  We like alternating between unilateral and bilateral exercises, for a specific movement or muscle group, every other week, to build a stronger, more balanced musculature.
  • Perform more exercises standing, including standing on one leg.  When you sit or lie down to do an exercise, you’re not supporting your own weight and, as a result, you’re compromising the development of core strength and stability.
  • Get away from training on machines that “lock” your body into exercises that don’t require balance or stability, and those that don’t work multiple joints and muscle groups from different angles.  Opt instead for free-weight exercises using dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, or even sandbags.
  • Move through different planes of motion when you workout.  Lateral, transverse (diagonal), rotational, and anti-rotational exercises are great additions to any training regimen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is Flexibility Overrated?

12 Aug

USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1Is there a relationship between flexibility and athletic performance?  And, if there is a relationship, is more necessarily better?

Flexibility and Performance

There’s a difference between movement quantity and movement quality.  Speed, strength, power, balance, and stability are qualitative aspects of movement.  For functional movements, i.e., sports performance, quality of movement is more important than quantity.

Most elite athletes have extraordinary levels of strength, power, endurance, or balance.  And, while there are elite athletes with exceptional flexibility, there are others with only average flexibility.  Ultimately, it’s less about the extent of your range of motion (ROM) and more about how you use (what you do with) what you have.

The average person probably has the necessary range of motion to execute most sports movements.  Their deficiencies usually have little to do with range of motion.  The issue is typically attributable to strength, power, mobility, or coordination, not flexibility.

Iashvili (1983) found that active (dynamic, movement-based) ROM and not passive (static) ROM was more highly correlated with sports performance.  Arguably, any further passive static ROM developed through passive static stretching will not provide any extra benefit.

There is a considerable body of research that discourages pre-activity static stretching — due to its potential to reduce strength and power output — in favor of dynamic warmup.  Studies show that flexibility in the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) is related to slower running and diminished running economy.  Interestingly, it has been shown that stiffer leg muscles in endurance athletes may make them more economical in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-max speeds.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention

The relationship between flexibility and injury prevention is mixed, at best.  Two studies involving soccer and hockey players revealed that players with more flexible groins do not suffer fewer groin injuries, while players with stronger adductors had less strains.  There is actually more evidence to support that lateral imbalances in strength and stability are a better predictor of injury than lack of flexibility.

There are some studies suggesting that musculoskeletal tightness may be associated with an increased likelihood of muscle strain injury.  Other studies, including Knapik, J.J. et al. 1992, found that subjects in the least flexible and most flexible quintiles were equally likely to get injured — 2.2-2.5 times more than subjects in the middle quintile (average flexibility).

The reality is that sports injuries are produced by a lot of different factors, and flexibility (or lack thereof) is only one of them.  It would be inappropriate to assign a level to the importance of flexibility as it relates to injury prevention.

For most athletes in most sports, there is probably little to be gained by increasing flexibility or range of motion.  Athletes are better off developing additional strength and stability within a particular range of motion.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

How “Hip” is Your Workout?

22 Jul

barbell-hip-raise[2]

Barbell Hip Thrust

15-most-important-exercises-barbell-hip-thrust[1]

Barbell Hip Thrust

Hip drive, which initiates the triple extension movement, is important for virtually every sport, regardless of whether it involves running, jumping, throwing, swinging, or kicking

Here’s more support for adding “hinge” (hip flexion and extension) exercises to your training regimen:

Strong hips can help you become strong all over, according to a Men’s Health article.

Researchers in New Zealand and the U.K. found that, as you increase the weight in lower-body exercises like the squat and deadlift, the muscles around your hips carry a larger proportion of the load.

“Your hips are the most powerful part of your body, so they take over as exercises become strenuous,” according to the study’s lead author.  “Working them directly can enhance your overall strength.”

In addition to “hinge” exercises like squats and deadlifts, kettlebell swings and barbell hip thrusts (pictured) are great additions to any workout regimen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Speed and Power with Posterior Chain Exercises

15 Jul

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Glute-Ham Raise, with Spotter

Improvements in athletic performance begin with lower-body strength and power development.  Hip/quad exercises, like squats and leg presses, are great but, if you’re not working the muscles of your posterior chain, you’re only doing half the job.  (please refer to, Don’t Neglect Your Glutes and Hamstrings)

Your posterior chain includes the muscles of the glutes and hamstrings.  Your glutes are responsible for hip extension, while knee flexion is a function of the hamstrings.

Why is it so important for athletes to perform exercises that focus on the glutes and hamstrings? Here’s the deal: The glutes are a primary muscle group involved in virtually every sports movement — including sprinting, jumping, throwing, kicking, and swinging. The hamstrings are important for eccentric muscle movements, like decelerating when you slow down, stop, or change direction; or land after jumping.

Glute-ham exercises should be incorporated into your training regimen, every time you workout.  Working these two important muscle groups can help athletes improve speed and power; enhance balance and stability; and reduce the risk of injury.

Two of our favorite glute-hamstring exercises are the Glute-Ham Raise and Romanian Deadlift (RDL).  We like our athletes to perform them as an agonist-antagonist paired set (superset), combining them with a hip/quad focused exercise like a squat or deadlift.

A typical superset might look something like this:

  • Barbell Back Squat, 6 reps at about 80% 1RM
  • Body-weight squat jump, 6 reps (more advanced athletes can hold dumbbells at their sides when doing this exercise)
  • Body-weight Glute-Ham Raise, 6 reps (focus on lowering movement; lower body to a 4-second count; assist to upright position; this exercise can also be weighted, for more proficient athletes)

All three exercises should be performed consecutively, with little or no rest between them.  Rest for 10-15 seconds between sets (after Glute-Ham raise).  Perform 3-4 sets.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strengthen Your Core With Anti-Rotational Exercises

1 Jul

DSCN1370Since strength and power are generated “from the inside out,” improving core strength and stability is important to athletic performance.

Most sports require rotational movement (swinging a bat or hockey stick, throwing a baseball or football, etc.), so the development of rotational strength and power is an important consideration when training the core. Rotational exercises – e.g., medicine ball twists and lateral throws, kettlebell swings, and other “twisting” exercises – are training program components of virtually every athlete with whom I work.

Anti-rotational exercises require athletes to resist rotation when executing a specific movement while the application of an external force attempts to push or pull them laterally (rotationally).  Anti-rotational exercises are important because, in many sports – especially contact sports (football, basketball, soccer, and hockey come to mind) – it’s necessary for athletes to be able to maintain directional movement while resisting opponents’ contact forces that have the potential to “knock them off course.”

At my facility, I use the TRX Rip Trainer for most of the anti-rotational training. It has a safe and simple design, and is very user-friendly and versatile.  However, there are other exercise equipment options, and you can even make your own.

I incorporate a different anti-rotational exercise into every athlete’s training program, each week. Typically, my athletes perform 1 or 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions, from each side.

Here are a few sample exercises, with instruction and demonstration:

Anti-Rotational Press

Anti-Rotational Straight Arm Squat 

Standing farther from the anchor point increases the resistance and, subsequently, difficulty of the exercise. Moving the anchor point higher or lower helps the trainer target different areas of the core, and can also simulate a more “sport-specific” exercise (e.g., lower anchor point for hockey; middle anchor point for baseball; and variable anchor point for lacrosse).

Exercise selection can be varied, as many exercises can be performed with the addition of lateral resistance (there are also lots of TRX Rip Trainer exercises you can find on their website and elsewhere, online). Other examples are the standing row, military press, and straight-arm lunge; as well as “swinging” and “chopping” exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Get In the Weight Room, Ladies

24 Jun

spartacus-workout_1[1]At Athletic Performance Training Center, our fastest growing client segment is female athletes and women interested in improving their fitness.

There’s virtually no difference between the way we train women and their male counterparts, and lots of relevant research supports this approach.

Forget all the myths and misinformation, and get the facts.  Strength training won’t make women “bulk up” — it can’t happen without lots of testosterone, which the female body doesn’t have.

The benefits of strength training, for men and women, athletes and non-athletes, are compelling.

Here’ a good read from Women’s Health titled, 6 Reasons Women Should Strength Train Like Men.

Check it out.  Then, get in the weight room, ladies.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Every Day is Leg Day

3 Jun

Prowler[1]Leg strength and power are important components of athletic performance for virtually every sport.

And, while strong, powerful legs can help any athlete to be faster and more explosive, you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from incorporating leg exercises into your training regimen.

Performing leg exercises like squats and lunges, and building stronger legs, can help you reduce your risk of injury; burn more calories and increase your metabolism; improve balance and stability; improve muscular endurance; relieve lower back pain; and improve your mobility. (please see 9 Reasons Not to Skip Leg Day)

Leg exercises that focus on hip/quad and posterior chain (glute/ham) should be a part of every training day.

And, forget about body-part training.  Even if you workout for aesthetic reasons, each and every workout should be a total-body workout.  It’s more functional and better reflects the demands and movement patterns of sports and everyday tasks — Train Like You Live, Work, Play.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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