Youth Athletes More Likely to Be Dehydrated

23 Aug

Dehydration is the number one cause of fatigue-related performance decline in athletes, including youth athletes.  Hydration — during activity (practices, games, etc.) — doesn’t seem to be adequate or effective enough to maintain hydration status. Therefore, it is imperative for coaches and parents to encourage hydration throughout the day — before, during (especially), and after activity.

The body is about 70% water, and small fluctuations in that percentage can make an impact, quickly. As water levels decline, so do the levels of nutrients needed to keep the body functioning effectively, such as salt and potassium.

Fatigue can occur when the volume of blood in the body is reduced as dehydration gets worse. That causes the heart to pump less efficiently. As dehydration progresses, the body has a more difficult time diffusing internal heat, and tension is created through the body in muscles, joints, and organs. That tension often manifests itself as fatigue.

Here’s an article from Health and Fitness News, based on a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, titled, Youth Athletes More Likely to Be Dehydrated.  Thanks to my friend, Niki, for sharing this resource.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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6 Machines to Avoid at the Gym

21 Aug

Several months ago, I published a blog post titled, Switch from Machines to Free Weights, which espoused the benefits of free-weight exercises because of their ability to engage more muscle groups and improve core strength and stability.

Here’s a nice resource from Healthy Living6 Machines to Avoid at the Gym.  The article provides additional insight into this issue, offering alternatives to 6 commonly used machine exercises.

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3 Essential Steps to Build Muscle Strength and Size

18 Aug

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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6 Simple Nutrition Rules for Athletes

16 Aug

Many pro athletes have nutritionists and meal planners who help them eat for optimum performance. The rest of us? We have to fend for ourselves. And while you could spend dozens of hours combing through nutrition books and journals in search of an eating plan that gives you an edge, you probably don’t have that kind of time to spare. Good news: You can upgrade your game instantly by following these six tried-and-true nutrition rules:

1. Aim for Balance

Each of your meals should provide a combination of carbs from whole grains, vegetables or fruits; proteins such as lean meats, peanut butter, or dairy; and healthy fats from foods like olive oil, nuts, or salmon.

2. Eat Breakfast

Your mom was right when she said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A proper morning nosh awakens your metabolism; improves your focus, memory, and mood; and boosts your energy levels all day long.

3. Eat More Frequently

Though you probably grew up on a three-meals-a-day diet, recent research indicates that athletes perform better by eating five or even six smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Try to consume an equal number of calories in each meal or snack, and space your eating sessions about three to four hours apart.

4. Eat Before Your Workout

Your car doesn’t run without fuel, and the same is true of your body. Training on an empty stomach — whether in a workout, practice, or a game — is like trying to drive with the tank on “E”… you’re bound to stall. A pre-workout meal provides your body with a readily available source of energy. For best results, consume a lean protein and slow-burning carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes, or oatmeal about an hour or so before training begins.

5. Stay Hydrated

You want to drink enough water to replace what you lose through sweat, but remember that hydration is an ongoing process. Make sure your fluid intake is adequate at all times — beforeduring, and after activity.

6. Refuel After Your Workout

Exercise depletes your body of energy and can damage muscle tissue, so it’s important to replenish your glycogen stores (the body’s main source of fuel) and supply some protein for muscle repair within about an hour of working out. Studies indicate that taking in a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein can help you accomplish both goals. Aim for 15 to 30 grams of protein and 30 to 90 grams of carbs after your workout.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Maximize Your Speed Workouts

14 Aug

There’s a reason people say that “speed kills.” It’s the difference maker in nearly every sport, and it can make or break you as an athlete.

Not everyone has the genetic potential to be Usain Bolt, but everyone can get faster. Follow these principles to make the most of your speed workouts:

Observe Proper Running Mechanics

  • Swing arms in line with elbows, not with shoulders or hands
  • Keep elbows bent at right angles
  • Point eyes in front and don’t look down at feet
  • Land on balls of feet and keep heels off ground
  • Pick foot off ground and swing leg forward, so that upper leg is parallel to ground
  • Drive against ground with every stride, and try to minimize ground time; the longer your foot stays in contact with the ground, the slower you will run

Run Fast

You have to train yourself to run fast. That means developing speed “muscle memory.” Perform every sprint at (or close to) maximum speed. You can’t train by performing sprints at only a percentage of your maximum speed and expect to teach your body to run at full speed.

Recover

Sprinting at maximum speed requires proper technique, so you must avoid excessive fatigue. Sprinting when you’re tired results in poor running mechanics and slower speeds.

  • Recover fully between sprints, resting 30 seconds to two minutes depending on the distance
  • Perform no more than three to 10 sprints during one workout
  • Perform sprints at the beginning of your workout after a dynamic warm-up to ensure a high energy level

Strength Training

This one should actually be at the top of the list.  It has been (accurately) said that speed development starts in the weight room.  The amount of force you can generate against the ground is critical to running speed.  Strength training is—and should be—an important component of speed training and development. It’s best to perform lower-body lifts that strengthen multiple muscles at once, such as Squats, Deadlifts, and Romanian Deadlifts. And since they improve acceleration and overall power, plyometrics should be an important part of your workouts.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Build Explosive Power with the Dumbbell Squat Jump Pyramid

11 Aug

Dumbbell Squat Jump

Here’s a simple but challenging, triple-extension “finisher” we use for some of our athletes at Athletic Performance Training Center to build and develop leg drive and lower-body explosive power.

Here’s how to perform our Dumbbell Squat Jump Pyramid:

  • Grab a pair of 15 lb. dumbbells and do five (5) squat jumps
  • Immediately grab a pair of 20 lb. dumbbells and do four (4) squat jumps, followed by
  • 25 lb. dumbbells – three (3) squat jumps
  • 30 lb. dumbbells – two (2) squat jumps
  • 35 lb. dumbbells – one (1) squat jump
  • Repeat two (2) squat jumps with 30 lb. dumbbells
  • Three (3) squat jumps with 25 lb. dumbbells
  • Four (4) squat jumps with 20 lb. dumbbells
  • Finish with five (5) squat jumps with 15 lb. dumbbells

As your dumbbell weight increases, your repetitions decrease, until you do one rep with your heaviest dumbbell.  Then you reverse the process, decreasing dumbbell weight and increasing repetitions, until you reach the weight and reps with which you started.

Observe proper squat jump technique, as follows:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Start by doing a regular squat, then engage your core and jump up explosively.
  3. When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one rep. Land as quietly as possible (which requires control) and proceed to the next repetition.

You can adjust the weight of the dumbbells – lighter or heavier – to meet your needs.  For example, a lower-intensity (lighter dumbbells) pyramid might look like this:

Body weight – 3 lb. – 5 lb. – 8 lb. – 10 lb. – 8 lb. – 5 lb. – 3 lb. – body weight

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Carpe Diem

9 Aug

How will you approach today?  Think about it for a minute…

Will you be purposeful, or will you just go through the motions?

Will your focus, on each task, be on excellence of execution, or just getting it done?

Will you try to improve upon yesterday — personally, professionally, academically, athletically — or just retrace your footsteps?

Will you run the day, or will you let the day run you?

Here are some thoughts my friend, Ginny, shared with me a while ago:

  • The way we do anything is how we do everything.  If you give 100% to making your bed, you will give 100% at work. Doing small things to the best of your ability shows that you will do the big things to the best of your ability
  • Don’t try and do everything you learn. Take a few key points and CRUSH THEM. It’s better to give 100% to 3-4 things than 20% to 15 things.
  • When you know exactly what you want, nothing will stop you. If you have a purpose, a reason — a why — you have everything you need to get started and achieve success
  • Start now and get better as you go.  Everyone on stage did not start at that point, they all started in the same position as everyone in attendance.  The only difference is they took action even when they didn’t know everything there was to know.

Have a plan, set a goal, and go to work.  Work your plan, to the best of your ability, each and every day.  Carpe Diem.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Build Stronger Legs with the Romanian Deadlift

7 Aug

If you’re like some of the exercisers I see at local gyms and recreation facilities, your leg workout consist primarily of the leg extension (bad exercise) and leg press (better).  If you’re doing squats… good for you.  That’s a step in the right direction.

If you want to strengthen your legs the smart way, work the oft-neglected muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) by adding the Romanian deadlift (RDL, a.k.a., straight-leg deadlift) to your workout.

A study at the University of Memphis suggests that the straight-leg deadlift is more effective than the leg curl machine (another bad exercise).  “The exercise activated the most muscle in the lowering phase,” according to lead researcher Brian Schilling.

Try these variations:

Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions, allowing 4 seconds to lower the weight.  Push your hips back to start the lowering motion, and drive hips forward to resume standing position.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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You’ve Got to Work Through Some Discomfort

4 Aug

Initially, the working title of this article was going to be, You’ve Got to be Able to Work Through Some Discomfort.  But then, I thought, certainly (virtually) everyone has the ability to work through some discomfort.

So then, I thought, maybe willingness is the issue.  Maybe when things get tough, some people just aren’t willing to work through some discomfort.  I think this is probably closer to the crux of the issue.

Finally, I thought, maybe awareness is part of the problem.  Maybe some people just don’t know how to work through some discomfort.

Now, from a training perspective, understand that when I refer to “working through some discomfort,” I’m not talking about lightheadedness (yep, that’s a real word), dizziness, and/or nausea.  When that happens, we shut people down.

What I’m referring to is the discomfort – physical, psychological, and emotional – that invariably accompanies a challenging workout.  Muscular fatigue that makes you feel like your brain and body can’t – or don’t want to – continue.  And, I’ll be the first to admit, it can be difficult to push yourself and keep moving forward when that happens.

Here’s a gem from my friend and Yoga instructor extraordinaire, Megan:

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I like that.  I think it’s helpful to consider that a challenging juncture in your workout is a resting point and not a stopping point.

I am also convinced that the problem is more mental than physical.  I think lots of folks just don’t believe they can keep pushing forward.  They lack the mental discipline and intestinal fortitude to keep going when the going gets tough.

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Condition yourself to push through your workout when your body and brain feel like quitting, even if it’s just one more repetition.  Over time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can accomplish.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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6 Ways to Trim Your Waist

2 Aug

If you want to slim your waistline, you can’t focus on spot training. You will need to increase your fat burning furnace with strength training, cardiovascular activity, and an appropriate diet.  Done in combination, these strategies will help you trim your waist quickly and improve your health.  Fat carried around the waistline increases your risk for serious health issues, including Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers.

Here are 6 ways to slim and trim your waist:

  1. Have a plan.  Set a fat loss goal for yourself.  In order to shed one pound of fat per week, you will need to burn 500 calories per day.  This can be accomplished through exercise and diet – for example, you could burn 250 calories with exercise and reduce your calorie intake by 250, daily.
  2. Get moving.  Engage in vigorous activity. Moderate-to high-intensity activity accelerates the fat/calorie burning process.  Jogging burns almost twice as many calories as walking.  Other good calorie-burning activities include racquetball, jumping rope, and hiking.
  3. Try interval training.  If vigorous activity is too aggressive, initially, try interval training.  This approach involves alternating intervals of high- and low-intensity activity.  Begin with a moderate activity, like walking, and incorporate periods of jogging, as tolerated.  Rotate between walking and jogging during your workout, gradually increasing the duration of your high-intensity activity.
  4. Lift weights.  Exercise with weights, or some other type of resistance (even body weight), at least twice per week.  Total-body training sessions will benefit all your major muscle groups, and trim your waist in the process.  Incorporate core (planks, leg raises, etc.) and rotational exercises (lateral kettlebell swings, weighted twists) into your training plan.
  5. Watch your diet.  Make sure your diet – both quality and quantity – is aligned with your goals.  Keep your daily calories consistent with your ideal/target weight.  Choose nutrient-dense foods that contain fewer calories and allow you to feel satisfied.  Produce and protein are the rule.  Fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains are high in fiber, which take longer to digest.  Keep your dairy low-fat and your protein lean.
  6. Eat breakfast, and don’t skip meals.  Avoid sugary, high-carb breakfasts and instead choose protein and whole grains.  Studies show that a protein-rich breakfast like an egg-white omelet will fill your stomach and help to reduce food cravings later in the day.  Eat, but don’t feast, every three to four hours to keep your metabolism running, so your body won’t go into starvation mode and stop burning calories — which is what happens when you don’t eat for extended periods of time.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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