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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?

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Here’s How Strength Training Reduces Injury Risk in Young Athletes

13 May

youth_big[1]Participation in sports can induce several beneficial effects in youth athletes, including improvements in cardiovascular risk profiles and bone health.

In contrast to the beneficial effects, participation in sports may also induce an inherent risk of injuries, especially in high-intensity sports with frequent changes in movement, velocity, and direction with high impacts and contacts between players.

Obviously, injury prevention is important, and it’s necessary to implement preventative measures to reduce the risk of injury and support the health benefits associated with playing sports.

“Strengthening muscles through resistance training will increase the forces they are capable of sustaining, making them more resistant to injury,” according to a recent study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Zouita, S., et.al.)

“These effects include strength enhancement of supporting connective tissues and passive joint stability, and also increased bone density and tensile strength.”

“… regular participation in an appropriately designed (and supervised) exercise program inclusive of resistance training can (strengthen muscles and connective tissues, and) enhance bone mineral density and improve skeletal health and likely reduce injury risk in young athletes.”

When incorporated with sport-specific skill training, strength training can improve physical performance and reduce injuries.

Your thoughts?

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When Do You Need a Spotter?

4 May

adv_benchpress_03[1]In exercise parlance, a spotter is a person who assists in the execution of an exercise to help protect the athlete from injury.

A spotter can also encourage and motivate the athlete, and assist in the completion of forced repetitions.

Ultimately, though, the primary responsibility of a spotter is to ensure the safety of the athlete being spotted.

Free-weight exercises involving one or more spotters may include:

  • Overhead (shoulder press)
  • Bar on the back (back squat)
  • Anterior “racked” (front shoulders) position — bar on shoulders or collarbones (front squat)
  • Supine, over-the-face (bench press)

These types of exercises, especially when performed with dumbbells, require one or more experienced, knowledgeable spotters.

Power exercises, such as Olympic lifts, should not be spotted.  Instead of spotting these exercises, the strength and conditioning professional must teach athletes how to get away from a bar that becomes unmanageable.

Ideally, overhead, bar on the back, and front shoulders exercises should be performed inside a power rack with the safety bars set at an appropriate height.

When spotting over-the-face barbell exercises, the spotter should hold the bar with an alternated-hand grip, preferably inside the athlete’s grip.  For dumbbell exercises, it is important to spot as close to the dumbbells as possible.

The number of spotters needed is mostly determined by the load being lifted, the experience and ability of the athlete and spotter(s), and the physical strength of the spotter(s).

Appropriate communication, before and during the lift, is the responsibility of both the spotter and the athlete.

Your thoughts?

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Should You Wear a Weightlifting Belt?

27 Apr

3-benefits-of-lifting-with-a-belt_graphics-1[1]

First of all, if you wear a weightlifting belt, why? And, if you don’t, why not — what is your rationale?

Perhaps you’ve seen others wear a weightlifting belt and you think it’s probably a good idea.

Maybe you have a coach, teammate, friend, workout partner, etc. who has recommended the idea to you.

You may have lower back soreness, and think the belt might help.

Or, you might wear it prophylactically, thinking it’s a good way to protect your lower back from injury.

Here is the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s stance on the use of weightlifting belts:  The use of a weightlifting belt can contribute to injury-free training.  However, its appropriateness depends on the type of exercise and the relative load lifted.  (Baechle, T. and Earle, R., Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; 2000)

A weightlifting belt should typically be worn when performing exercises that place stress on the lower back (squat, deadlift, Olympic lifts, etc.) and during sets that involve near-maximal or maximal loads (1RM testing, etc.).

The use of a weightlifting belt in these situations may help stabilize and reduce stress on the spine; create better body biomechanics; and even improve performance.

Keep in mind that a weightlifting belt only has the potential to reduce the risk of lower-back injury when combined with proper lifting and spotting technique.

No weightlifting belt is needed for exercises that do not stress the lower back or for exercises that do stress the lower back but use light-to-moderate loads.

There are some drawbacks to the (inappropriate) use of a weightlifting belt:  Wearing a belt too often reduces opportunities for the abdominal muscles to be trained — strengthened and stabilized. In other words, it can hinder you from developing your own core musculature. Additionally, weightlifting belts tend to give people a false sense of security, enticing them to try to lift more than they normally (or safely) would.

So, if you’re a competitive weightlifter and/or someone going after your own personal best on the squat or hang clean, buckle up.

But for all your other strength training activities — including your day-to-day strength and fitness efforts — maintain proper technique, use a spotter when warranted, and skip the belt.

Your thoughts?

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Here’s Why Exercise is Important for Older Adults

21 Apr

senior_fitness2[1]Advancing age (65+) is associated with a loss of muscle mass, which is due to physical inactivity and the selective loss of Type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers.  This reduction in muscle mass is directly related to a loss of muscle strength and power.

Resistance training has the potential to offset this age-related decline in the following ways:

  • Increases muscle strength
  • Increases muscle endurance
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Increases muscle fiber size
  • Increases muscle metabolic capacity
  • Increases resting metabolic rate
  • Decreases body fat
  • Increases bone mineral density
  • Increases physical function

Although the aging process is associated with several undesirable changes in body composition, older men and women maintain their ability to make significant improvements in strength and functional ability.  Both aerobic and resistance exercise are beneficial for older adults, but only resistance training can increase muscle strength and muscle mass.

Before participation in an exercise program, seniors should be pre-screened (physical exam, medical history, risk factors) to determine the most appropriate type of activity.  Additionally, older adults should:

  • Perform an appropriate, low-intensity warm-up prior to each exercise session
  • Use a level of resistance that does not overwhelm the musculoskeletal system
  • Allow 48 to 72 hours between exercise sessions
  • Perform all exercises within a range-of-motion that is pain-free
  • Always exercise under the supervision of a trained (qualified, experienced) instructor

Your thoughts?

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Here’s How Strength Training Benefits Connective Tissue

30 Mar

Male-ConnectiveTissue-ref06[1]Want to improve the structure and function of your connective tissues?  Lift (heavy) weights.

In addition to its musculoskeletal benefits, high-intensity strength training also results in a net growth of the involved connective tissues.

Exercise of low- to moderate-intensity does not significantly change the collagen content of connective tissue.  Collagen is the main structural protein found in all connective tissues in the musculoskeletal system.

The 3 types of connective tissue are:

  • Tendon – a flexible but inelastic cord of strong fibrous collagen tissue attaching a muscle to a bone
  • Ligament – a short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint
  • Cartilage – a firm tissue, softer and much more flexible than bone; it is found in many areas of the body including joints between bones (e.g. the elbows, knees, and ankles); the “cushion” between bones

Connective tissues adapt to high-intensity musculoskeletal stimulation by growing and strengthening.

Weight-bearing exercise, with movement through a complete range-of-motion, seems to be vital to maintaining connective tissue development.

Your thoughts?

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How Young is Too Young for Strength Training?

23 Mar

dips[1]I am frequently asked, “Is my child too young/old enough for strength training?

Research now agrees and supports that resistance exercise can be safe and effective for children.  If the child is old enough to listen, pay attention, and follow instructions, he or she is probably capable of participating in a strength training program.  However, it’s important to remember that children are not miniature adults, and should not be trained, as such.

Although preadolescent boys and girls have the potential to significantly improve their strength with resistance training, these gains are less attributable to muscle hypertrophy (growth) and more so to neurological (neuromuscular) factors — improving motor unit coordination, recruitment, and firing.

Potential benefits of strength training for children include increased muscular strength and endurance; improved anatomic and psychosocial parameters; reduced injuries in sports and recreation activities; improved motor skills and sport performance; positive effect on bone density.

Parents should be educated about the benefits and risks of competitive sports and should understand the importance of general fitness for the young athlete.

Children should participate in a year-round strength and conditioning program to enhance fitness, strength, and flexibility.  The program should vary in volume and intensity throughout the year and meet the specific needs of each athlete.

The nutritional status of young athletes should be monitored to ensure that their diets are adequate.

Youth sport coaches should participate in educational programs to learn more about strength and conditioning, sport skills, safety rules, equipment, the psychology of children, and the physiology of growth and development.

A competent — qualified and experienced — strength and conditioning professional can assist in the development of youth strength training programs that stress quality instruction and appropriate rate of progression.

YOUTH RESISTANCE TRAINING GUIDELINES (adapted from Faigenbaum et al. 1996)

  • Each child should understand the benefits and risks associated with resistance training.
  • Competent and caring fitness professionals should supervise training sessions.
  • The exercise environment, including equipment, should be safe and free of hazards.
  • Appropriate warm-up should be performed before resistance training.
  • Carefully monitor each child’s tolerance to the exercise stress.
  • Begin with light loads to allow appropriate adjustments to be made.
  • Increase the resistance/intensity gradually (e.g., 5% -10%) as strength improves.
  • Depending on individual needs and goals, one to three sets of 6 to 15 repetitions on a variety of single- and multi-joint exercises can be performed.
  • Advance multi-joint exercises, such as modified cleans, pulls, and presses, may be incorporated into the program, provided that appropriate loads are used and the focus remains on proper form.
  • Two to three nonconsecutive training sessions per week are recommended.
  • When necessary, adult spotters should be nearby to actively assist the child in the event of a failed repetition.
  • The resistance training program should be systematically varied throughout the year.
  • Children should be encouraged to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.

Your thoughts?

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

Strength Training Safety and Specificity

16 Mar

adv_benchpress_03[1]One of the goals of strength training is to reduce the likelihood of injury during training.  Compared with other sports and fitness activities, strength training is actually quite safe — if and when athletes adhere to basic safety principles.

Specificity should also be an important consideration when designing an exercise program to improve performance in a particular sport or activity.  Exercise selection should be determined to reflect and support the demands and movement patterns of the sport.  A strength training program designed around sport-specific exercise movements can improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury.

SAFETY

  • Always perform a dynamic (movement-based) warm-up activity — or warm-up sets — with relatively light weight in order to stimulate blood flow to the muscles and improve connective tissue (ligaments, tendons) function.  Avoid static stretching as a warm-up.
  • Perform exercises through a full range-of-motion.
  • When performing a new exercise, or when training after an extended layoff (multiple weeks), use relatively light weight and gradually increase as proficiency allows.
  • Don’t “work through” pain, especially joint pain.  Working through some muscle fatigue or post-exercise muscle soreness is usually okay, but severe and persistent pain may be a warning sign to have the injury examined and treated medically.
  • Never attempt maximal lifts without appropriate preparation, (technique) instruction, and supervision.
  • Avoid “bouncing” at the bottom of the squat exercise, as this type of movement can cause muscle injury.  Observe proper squat mechanics — keep the knee in a vertical plane through the foot and hip.
  • Athletes should build adequate lower-body strength before beginning a lower-body plyometrics program.
  • Perform several varieties of an exercise to improve muscle development and joint stability.

SPECIFICITY

  • Exercise selection should reflect and support the qualitative and quantitative demands and movement patterns of the sport.
  • Joint ranges-of-motion should be at least as great as those in the target activity.
  • Utilize visual observation and video as tools to facilitate exercise selection and determine movements important to that sport.
  • Exercise selection should include the three major planes — frontal, sagittal, and transverse, in order to strengthen movements among and between the planes.
  • Training should be movement-based, and not muscle-based.

Your thoughts?

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How to Improve Force Production

9 Mar

revwads18cut-1[1]There are many factors that affect force production (the amount of force produced in a muscle, or muscles).  Improvements in force production can optimize sport-specific skill performance, including running, jumping, throwing, and hitting/striking.

Lift Heavy

Lifting heavy weight (e.g, 65-80% 1RM) produces greater tension in the muscle which, in turn, leads to greater motor unit (neuromuscular) recruitment, which affects force production.  The number of active motor units is directly proportional to the amount of force production.  (It should also be noted that heavy lifting and explosive concentric training [see below] have the potential to activate more fast-twitch muscle fibers)

Preloading

Preloading is the tension developed in the muscle before you move the weight.  When you bench press, deadlift, or squat, you can’t move the bar off the rack or floor until sufficient force is developed in the muscle to overcome the inertia of the barbell.

Overload Eccentric Training

Use very heavy resistance (≥ 100% 1RM) to perform “negatives,” which emphasize the lowering phase/movement of a lift.  For safety reasons, it may be advisable to use a spotter (or spotters) for certain exercises, such as the bench press, to assist in returning the weight to the original (up) position.

Explosive Concentric Training

When training for explosive concentric movements — where the goal is generating velocity — use relatively light resistance.

Plyometrics

Plyometric exercises exploit the stretch-shortening cycle to generate maximum force in minimum time.  This involves “prestretching” a muscle immediately before a concentric action to enhance force production during the subsequent muscle action.

Rest

It’s important to incorporate rest days into your training regimen in order to allow muscles time to recover and repair.

Your thoughts?

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Aerobic/Anaerobic Combination Training Implications

24 Feb

Tire%20flipping[1]When aerobic training is added to the training of anaerobic athletes (those who participate in sports whose demands are primarily anaerobic), the resulting process can be termed combination training.

And, although lots of athletes who participate in strength and power sports also engage in some type of aerobic training, they may want to reconsider (please refer to, Why Are You Still Jogging?).

Certainly, some sports have more of an aerobic component than others, but virtually all sports integrate alternating intervals — short bursts — of high-intensity and (relatively) lower-intensity activity.  Characteristics of anaerobic training include:

  • Absence of oxygen
  • High intensity
  • Short duration
  • Develops force
  • Burns calories even when the body is at rest

Aerobic training may reduce anaerobic performance capabilities, particularly high-strength, high-power performance (Hickson, R.C. Interference of strength development by simultaneously training for strength and endurance. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 215:255-263. 1980).  High-strength, high-power performance incorporates explosive, “all-or-nothing” movements, including sprinting, jumping, hitting, throwing, kicking, blocking, and tackling.

Not only has aerobic training been shown to reduce anaerobic energy production capabilities; combined anaerobic and aerobic training can reduce the gain in muscle girth, maximum strength, and especially speed- and power-related performance (Dudley, G.A., and R. Djamil. Incompatibility of endurance- and strength-training modes of exercise. J. Appl. Physiol. 59(5); 1446-1451. 1985).

Apparently, it does not appear that the opposite holds true; several studies and reviews suggest that anaerobic training (strength training) can improve low-intensity exercise endurance (Hickson, R.C., et.al. Potential for strength and endurance training to amplify endurance performance. J. Appl. Physiol. 65(5):2285-2290. 1988. Strength training effects on aerobic power and short-term endurance. Med.Sci. Sports. Exerc. 12:336-339, 1980. Stone, M.H., et.al. Health and performance related adaptations to resistive training. Sports Med. 11(4):210-231. 1991).  In other words, endurance athletes can benefit from and improve performance by strength training.

As strength and conditioning professionals, we should be careful about prescribing aerobic training for anaerobic athletes/sports.  An athlete’s training should be designed to reflect and support the demands and movement patterns of his or her sport.  Aerobic training may be counterproductive in most strength and power sports.

Your thoughts?

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