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Boost Your Results With Rest-Pause Training

12 Mar

Rest-pause training is a relatively new approach that can yield better strength-training results, and significantly impact muscle size, strength, and post-workout metabolism.  Basically, you’re taking a weight you could normally lift six times and lifting it 10 to 12 times instead.

Here’s how to do it: After an appropriate warmup, choose a weight that’s about 80% of your 1-rep max, for any given exercise.  Perform as many reps as you can — probably 6 or 7.  Rest 20 seconds.  Pick up the weight and do as many reps as you can — maybe 3 or 4.  Rest another 20 seconds.  Now pick it up and do a couple more.

According to a recent Journal of Translational Medicine study, experienced lifters were burning 18% more calories the day after the rest-pause workout — including a higher percentage of fat — than they were after doing a traditional workout.

Upper-body exercises — such as bench presses, rows, and chinups or lat pulldowns — work well with the rest-pause approach.  Lower-body exercises, like squats and deadlifts, require strict attention to technique, since form tends to deteriorate as fatigue increases.

The benefit of rest-pause training is more muscle activation, more fat burned, and a more time-efficient workout.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Add Variety to Your Workout With Kettlebells

5 Mar

Kettlebells have been part of Eastern European training programs for decades.  Today, it would probably be difficult to find a gym in America without them.

And, while we haven’t gone “kettlebell crazy” at our facility, they are a user-friendly strength-training tool that provides a nice complement to traditional equipment like barbells and dumbbells.

Kettlebell training can help you build muscleget leaner, and burn fat while improving mobility and total-body strength.

Kettlebells place greater demand on your stabilizing musclescore, and coordination.  They are also a great tool for developing better grip strength.

We like kettlebells for explosive, total-body exercises like swings, and more traditional exercises like goblet squats.  The kettlebell swing is a great exercise as part of a dynamic warm-up, or as part of your workout.  It’s also useful for triple extension training.

The most common place to hold a kettlebell is its handle, especially for exercises like swings and snatches.  For exercises like goblet squats, hold the horns (the sides of the handle).

When using kettlebells, good technique is important.  Keep your wrists straight (don’t bend), weight on your heels, and shoulders pulled down and back (chin up, chest up).  Proper form increases your stability and allows you to generate more power, which improves performance.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Why Extreme Conditioning Programs Are Wrong for Athletes

26 Feb

Extreme Conditioning Programs (ECPs) like P90X, Insanity, and CrossFit have become very popular with fitness enthusiasts.  And while these programs may be appropriate for some — within reason, just about any exercise is better than none — they are clearly not the right choice for everyone.

Athletic performance training should not necessarily be a time-constrained, physical challenge.  There is no scientific rationale for the “as many as you can, as fast as you can” approach.  And since injury prevention should be an important consideration in the development of any performance training plan, programs that encourage quantity over quality should be carefully scrutinized.

Research shows that full muscular activation can be achieved well before the point of total exhaustion or fatigue.  Simply stated, when an athlete’s form begins to “break down,” during the course of any given exercise, it’s time to put the weight down.  When athletes become fatigued and technique gets sloppy, exercise range-of-motion becomes compromised and the chance of injury increases.

Scientifically speaking, the development of sport-specific strength and power — and the activation of fast-twitch muscle fibers — involves performing exercises using heavy loads, through a narrow range of repetitions, with technical correctness (full range-of-motion), and adequate time for recovery between sets.

Here’s an article from Tony Duckwall, athletic performance director for KIVA volleyball and IFHCK field hockey and co-owner and sports performance director for Louisville-based EDGE Sports Performance.  Tony discusses 5 Reasons Young Athletes Shouldn’t Use Standardized Programs Like P90X, Insanity and CrossFit.

Another article, this one from STACK Media Associate Editor, Sam DeHority, provides insight into Why Athletes Shouldn’t Just Jump into CrossFit.

Here’s the deal: If you want to try CrossFit, or some other ECP, give it a try.  But first do a little research, understand what you’re getting yourself into, and make sure that whatever you do is aligned with your strength and/or fitness goals.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Upgrade Your Workout With Drop Sets

19 Feb

Drop sets are a great way to make your time in the gym more effective and efficient.  Regardless of whether your goals include getting strongerbiggerfitter, or leaner, drop sets will provide the challenge you’re looking for and really rev your metabolism in the process.

Typically, drop sets involve performing an exercise to failure, quickly reducing the weight, doing another set of the same exercise to failure, and repeating this process.

Here’s a way to incorporate drop sets into your current workout plan:

  • On the final set of each exercise, go to failure — do as many repetitions as you can safely manage.
  • Rest a few seconds (just enough time to decrease the weight).
  • Reduce the weight by about 25% and perform as many reps as you can.

Add drop sets to your training plan by making one day a week a “drop sets” day (or, perhaps, one week per cycle).

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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?

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!

Your thoughts?

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?

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