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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!

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What’s More Important — Diet or Exercise?

30 Apr

Your genetic “blueprint”dictates a lot about your fitnesshealth, and wellness.  But we all have a window of opportunity within which we can have an impact.

And, while diet and exercise are both significant contributors, you can impact your metabolism to a greater extent through exercise.

Simply stated, pound-for-pound, muscle burns more calories than fat.

The best way to build muscle and burn fat is high-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT).  HIRT continues to build muscle and burn fat even after you have left the gym.

In one recent Italian study, lifters doing HIRT burned 18% more calories 22 hours after exercising than individuals who did traditional strength training.

Next time you’re in the weight room, try this approach:  Choose three exercises.  Start with the first exercise and, using 80-85% of your 1 rep max, do 6 reps and rest 20 seconds; do 2-3 reps and rest 20 seconds; do 2-3 reps.  That’s one set.  Do 7 sets of all three exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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