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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The Power of Action

23 Jul

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes, but they do not quit.” – Conrad Hilton

What do you want to accomplish?

Maybe it’s sport-related.  Perhaps you want to improve your strength, speed, agility, and/or athleticism.  Or, maybe it’s something even more sport-specific, like your shooting percentage or batting average.  Or, it could be that you aspire — quite simply — to make the team.

Maybe it’s school-related.  Your goal could be to improve your grade point average or perform better in a particular class or course, or the next time you take the ACT or SAT.

Work-related goals are important, too — promotions, increases in pay, and performance improvement, among others.

Ultimately, some of our goals involve interpersonal communication and relationships.  We seek to improve upon our relationships with family, relatives, and friends.

Regardless of what you want to accomplish, develop a plan of action and take the first step toward your goal today.  Make sure your action is purposeful — not random or arbitrary — and do something that moves you along the path toward your goal, right now.

Then, no matter how effective your first action step was in moving you toward your goal, keep moving.  If appropriate, repeat the first step.  If necessary, take the next step.  Just don’t stop.

You may surprise yourself by how much you can accomplish by just “inching” toward your goal, with steadiness and consistency.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished if you’re persistent and keep moving forward.

Action is empowering.  It’s invigorating.  It’s gratifying.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Basketball 101: The ABCs of Shooting

16 Jul

I’ve always been a big believer in defense, as it relates to team sports.  If you can limit your opponent’s scoring opportunities, you will always be in the game — you’ll always have a chance.

Conversely, I understand the importance of offense — you’ve got to shoot if you want to score, and you’ve got to score if you want to win.

Basketball shooting is built on repetition — quality repetition.  Great shooters understand that there are a few basic principles that guide their desire to become proficient.  Here are a few tips — ABCs, if you will — to consider as you prepare for your upcoming season:

Accuracy

You’ve got to be able to put the ball in the hoop.  Great shooters are accurate.  They don’t make all their shots, but their shots are always around the basket.  That means shooting with the proper releaserotation, and arc, for any given shot.  Technically correct form is a must.  If you practice with poor shooting mechanics, all you’ll succeed in doing is reinforcing poor shooting form.

Belief

If you’re going to be a great shooter, you’ll need an unwavering belief in yourself.  You’ve got to have confidence that borders on (but doesn’t manifest itself in) cockiness, and confidence leads to success.  You must want the ball in your hands, want to take the “big” shot, and believe in your ability to make it.

Consistency

As previously stated, release, rotation, and arc are important components of shooting.  The ball has got to come off your hand the same way — consistently — for any given shot.  It’s all about muscle-memory.  Once again, technically correct repetition is the key — doing it the same way, over and over again.

As long as we’re at it, there are a few “Ds” to throw into the mix: DependabilityDedication, and Desire.  Great shooters are dependable, and can be counted on to produce, consistently.  Great shooters are also dedicated to self-improvement, and have a strong desire to be the best they can be.

To get the most out of your practice, make sure your shooting drills reflect game conditions and game speed.  As much as possible, you want to be able to simulate conditions similar to those you’ll encounter in competitive play.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Training Table 101: Protein and Complex Carbs

9 Jul

Fall sports season is just around the corner, which means training camp time for football, soccer, and volleyball players, among others.

For most of these athletes, August will be the most active and physically demanding few weeks that they have.  One of the challenges facing these athletes is that many of them have not maintained healthy eating habits needed to complement their energy expenditure.

During training camp, many players actually struggle to keep weight on, rather than off.  Understanding the importance and impact of appropriate calorie consumption — as well as specific intake of fats, carbs, and proteins — is a must.

Basically, calorie consumption should take (at least) two factors into consideration: Body weight (desired) and physical activity (duration, frequency, intensity level, ambient temperature).

A typical meal or snack should be pretty simple:

  • Protein, such as steak, chicken, or fish
  • Vegetable
  • Healthy starch, including sweet potato, brown rice, whole grain pasta, etc.

The focus should be on protein and complex carbohydrates.  Additionally, adequate fluid intake — before, during, and after physical activity — is critical to prevent dehydration.

Athletes burn a lot of energy during training camp.  Most of these players have invested considerable time and effort training during the off-season to prepare themselves for the rigors of the upcoming season.  Proper nutrition is important to prevent weight loss, and loss of muscle mass.

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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Dream Big

25 Jun

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Peale

First of all, I’ve got to thank my cousin, Vince Nardy, from whom I borrowed this picture.  He posted it on Facebook, I thought it was pretty cool, and it started my thought process.  Thanks, Vince!

For twenty years, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, mostly in the training department.  I had a great job.  Basically, I had a hand in creating my own job description.  I was involved in the creation, development, and implementation of training programs — initial sales training; product training; disease state training; technical training; skills training; and management and leadership training and development. I was involved in virtually every facet of training and development, but my favorite area was being in front of people — teaching, training, coaching, and developing.  That’s my passion.  Great opportunity, great compensation, and great job satisfaction (most of the time).

But my dream was bigger than that.  I wanted to (help) build the best training department — and training experience — in the pharmaceutical industry.  I wanted every participant in our training and development workshops to leave feeling that they had just experienced a “best-in-class” training program.

Then, a little over ten years ago, I learned that my job (and most of my department) was being eliminated.  For years, the entire pharmaceutical industry had grown faster than it’s infrastructure could support, and now the pendulum was beginning to swing in the other direction.  My severance was at the forefront of what would become a massive downsizing, both in our company and the industry.  It was time to move on.

Then, the dream process started again.  Long story short, I took a severance package and started my own business — Athletic Performance Training Center — in April 2008.  I had been developing this vision for years (and, sort of doing it “on the side,” in my basement and elsewhere, with my kids and some of their friends and teammates) but, I must admit, losing my job forced my hand.  And, although there have been some “speed bumps” along the way, I haven’t looked back since.

My undergraduate background is science based, and I completed post-graduate work in Exercise Science and Human Performance, and earned my certification, with distinction, through a highly respected, accredited organization – the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).  With the help of a few other local small business owners, I developed a business plan.  I enlisted the help of an attorney (a neighbor and family friend) to ensure that my business was set up legally, professionally, and registered with the state.

Then I went to work networking with, and learning from, some of the brightest, most-respected, well-known names in the field of strength and conditioning.  I still try to learn something new, every single day, that  makes me better at what I do, and improves me as a resource to my clients.  I never want to stop learning.

Although my endeavor is categorized as a “small business,” my vision — my dream — is anything but.  I have been dreaming big since opening my doors over ten years ago.  I want to reach everyone, and help them reach their athletic performance, strength and conditioning, and fitness goals.

We currently collaborate and partner with dozens of clubs, schools, teams, groups, and organizations.  Additionally, I spend some time every day contacting coaches, athletic directors, administrators, employers, businesses, corporations, and program directors in hopes of discussing with them how we can be a resource to their constituency.  We’re currently working with an organization to take our business (and workouts) online so that anyone can benefit from APTC training, regardless of where they live.

Obviously, I publish this blog, posting once a week, but I also write for a handful of other publications, including STACK Media.  I hope to reach and positively impact as many people as I can, on a national (and international) level.

Another of my passions is public speaking, and I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to speak at several grade schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, and other organizations.  I have also had the privilege of speaking at local and regional NSCA sanctioned events.  My dream, however, is to broaden my scope and speak more at the national level.  I have recently been added (after much legwork) to a few national speaker’s bureaus, which have the potential to increase my exposure.

My point is this:  DREAM BIG!  Don’t aspire to make 50% of your shots (even though that’s a solid field goal percentage), aim to make all of them.  Dream of a 1.000 batting average; a 100% free-throw shooting percentage; a 100% passing completion rate; a 4.0 grade point average.  But don’t stop with the dream.  You can’t just dream big and expect good things to happen, you’ve got to do something about it.  Develop a plan of action, then WORK to make it happen.  Do something, every day, to move yourself closer to your dream or goal.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you and encourage you and, most importantly… BELIEVE IN YOU!

I may or may not realize all my dreams but, if I don’t, it won’t be because I didn’t dream big, or for lack of effort.

My dreams are still bigger than my achievements but, hey, that’s how it’s supposed to be… right?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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The Most Important Game Is Your Next Game

18 Jun

How did you play in your last game?  Did you play as well as you wanted?  Did you play as well as you expected?  Did you play as well as you are capable?

Maybe you played with aggressiveness, or maybe you weren’t aggressive enough.

Maybe you played with confidence, or maybe it was lacking.

Maybe you brought energy, or maybe it just wasn’t there.

Well, here’s the deal:  There’s nothing you can do to change your effort or your performance now.  The game is over.

The key is to analyze and understand your performance — what happened and why it happened — and use that analysis and understanding to gain a competitive advantage… to improve upon your last game.

If you played a great game, work on further improving and reinforcing the things you did well.

If you played a not-so-great game, don’t dwell on it — it’s over.  But make sure you learn from it, and do your best to apply what you learned to your next game.

Because now the only game that matters is your next game.  It’s the most important one, because it’s the next game you can impact.  You can’t play any of the games after the next game until you play the next one.  Do your best to make it what you want it to be.  Make it happen.

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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