Soccer Players, Get in the Weight Room

3 May

Volumes of research have established that a well-designed, appropriately supervised strength training program can help any athlete improve his or her performance, regardless of the sport.  A recent study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, examined the effects of a resistance exercise program on soccer kick biomechanics.

The study followed a 10-week resistance exercise program, mainly for the lower-limb muscles.  The training program included progressive high-weight, low-repetition exercises that focused on hip abduction and adduction; knee flexion and extension; and ankle plantar flexion and dorsiflexion.

Results included measurement of leg strength and power through the entire kicking phase — backswing and forward swing — before and after training.

As expected, “maximum and explosive force significantly increased after training…” (Manolopoulos, et. al.)

“These results suggest that increases in soccer kicking performance after a 10-week resistance training program were accompanied by increases in maximum strength and an altered soccer kick movement pattern, characterized by a more explosive backward-forward swinging movement and higher muscle activation during the final kicking phase.”

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What’s Your Workout Motivation?

1 May

Why do you workout?  (and, conversely, why don’t you workout?)

Are you working toward a goal or do you just enjoy the process?

Is it for health and wellness?  Do you want to improve your quality (and quantity) of life?

Do you want to look better, perhaps get more lean and muscular?  (I saw a quote, recently, that said, “Diet if you want to look better in clothes; workout if you want to look better naked.”)

Do you want to feel better?  Are you working out to improve your energy level or functional movement?

Are you trying to lose a few pounds and, perhaps, get closer to your ideal body weight and reduce stress on your joints?

Do you work out with a friend or group of friends and enjoy the social interaction?

Do you want to get stronger, faster, and more athletic?  Is one of your goals to improve your performance?

Are you doing it for you, or for someone else?

The bottom line is, there is no wrong reason — and no one right reason — for working out (they’re all right).  As that shoe company says, “just do it.”

Please tag me back with a comment and share your motivation for working out (or your reason for not working out).  I will compile a list and share the best responses in a future blog post.  Thanks, in advance, for your feedback.

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Strengthen Your Glutes With Hip Raises

28 Apr

The hip raise is one of the best moves for strengthening your glutes.  This exercise is also a great choice for improving core strength and stability, as well as athletic performance.

Your glutes are important — but often overlooked — muscles, where movement and performance are concerned.  You use them for running, jumping, throwing, and kicking; so strengthening them can improve your game, regardless of the sport you play.

To perform this exercise, try the hip raise with your head and upper back on a Swiss ball.  Do three sets of 10 repetitions.

  • Put your head and upper back on a Swiss ball
  • Keep your knees bent, feet flat, and hips just above the floor
  • Push your hips up until they are parallel with the ground, and aligned with your knees and shoulders
  • Pause, and slowly lower your hips back to the starting position

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Eat Protein and Produce at Every Meal

26 Apr

Whole foods are best for building muscle, because they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other micro-nutrients that you don’t always get in supplements.  “If your food used to have a face or grow in the ground, it’s appropriate to eat,” says Bill Hartman, PT, CSCS.

To maximize the impact your diet has on building muscle and getting stronger, make protein and produce the centerpiece of every meal.  Grilled or blackened chicken or salmon, with a side of sautéed broccoli, make a great “go-to” meal, and can be prepared in advance.  Stick with lean protein sources, colorful fruits, and green vegetables.  When preparing your meals, avoid sauces, glazes, and dressings that pack on fat and calories.

Peanut butter (and nuts like almonds, cashews, and pistachios) and Greek yogurt are great choices, convenient, and portable.

For planning purposes, there are some fruits and vegetables that actually retain more of their flavor and nutrients frozen than fresh, including corn, peas, spinach, blueberries, and cherries.

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Is the Upright Row Exercise Dangerous?

24 Apr

The upright row exercise (pictured) is popular with bodybuilders, athletes, and general fitness enthusiasts.  It is usually performed to increase upper-back and shoulder muscle size.  The upright row also tends to increase neck girth, making it especially popular with football and rugby players.

Although it is a common strength training exercise, the upright row is not particularly functional, from an athletic performance (movement) training perspective.  Additionally, there are concerns about the short- and long-term safety of this exercise.

The problem occurs when you raise your arms and add resistance in that position.  Every time you raise the weight, a small tendon in your shoulder gets pinched (known as impingement) by the bones in the shoulder.  This  may not hurt immediately.   It may not even hurt for a long time.  The problem is, the tendon can gradually become worn down and damaged.  You may not even know you have a developing problem until serious injury occurs.

The upright row involves considerable medial or internal shoulder rotation. This action creates significant torque within your shoulder joints. This torque, in turn, places a potentially injurious load on the small muscles that control the stability of your shoulder joint, specifically your rotator cuff. Some exercisers find that upright rows place their shoulders in a mechanically disadvantageous position that can result in shoulder pain.

Use a wider grip and limit the range of motion of the upright row exercise by not lifting your upper arms past parallel to the floor, since this increases your risk of shoulder impingement and injury.  If you find upright rows hurt your shoulders, perform lat raises or shrugs for your trapezius muscles instead.

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Don’t Take Yourself Out of the Game

21 Apr

As an athlete, consistency is important.  Consistency of effort, preparation, and practice leads to consistency of performance.  But, despite our best efforts, athletes at every level experience performance slumps.  There will be  some games when your shots are just not falling.  How will you deal with it?

There are some things that are under your control every time you take the court.  Attitude is one of them and, perhaps, the most important.  You decide if and how you let a missed shot or turnover affect your next possession, or the rest of your game.  Although it may be easier said then done, a positive mental approach (and, sometimes, a short memory) is critical to athletic performance success.

Effort is another area that shouldn’t be impacted by your level of play.  Keep hustling.  Continue to “play hard, play smart, and play together” (Dean Smith, former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach).  Don’t allow a missed shot or bad pass to be an excuse to give anything less than 100% when you’re on the court.  Focus on the aspects of your play that aren’t susceptible to slumps, like defense, boxing out, and rebounding.

Don’t allow a performance slump to take away your aggressiveness, confidence, or energy.  You’ve worked hard to get to this point.  Keep believing in yourself and maintain a high intensity level.  Draw on positive past experience to fuel your thoughts.  Keep working hard, stay positive, and good things will happen.

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Boost Your Performance with Contrast Training

19 Apr

There are various differences in the physical demands of sports, based on factors such as the sport, itself, and positional differences among and between athletes.  Different sports require athletes to move through unique movement patterns which, for training purposes, can be categorized into vertical, linear, and lateral.  Exercises that focus on strength and power development, in these three areas, should be at the forefront of every athlete’s training program.

One of the goals of athletic performance training should be to increase the athletes’ work capacity while improving (reducing) their recovery time.  Contrast training is a highly effective method for improving many physical attributes involved in athletic performance, including strength, power, speed and agility — if implemented properly.  Contrast training involves performing a set of a heavy resistance exercise, immediately followed by a set of a biomechanically similar power exercise (for example, a barbell back squat, immediately followed by a squat jump).  Complex training is a similar approach, which involves performing 3-4 sets of heavy resistance training followed by 3-4 sets of the biomechanically similar power exercise.

The benefits of contrast training include:

  • Effective in producing results
  • Highly efficient
  • Allows for high work density
  • Time effective
  • Allows athletes to complete fewer training sessions in order to yield the same or greater results
  • May have implications for injury prevention

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Vitamin D and Muscle Strength

17 Apr

Vitamin D is an essential, fat-soluble vitamin.  It is an important hormone with a wide range of functions.  Among the biological actions of vitamin D metabolites is regulation of protein synthesis.

In addition to getting vitamin D from food sources, the body also synthesizes it from sunlight exposure.

I live in northeast Ohio, where year-round sunlight is not as ample as some other parts of the country.  Vitamin D supplementation is often recommended for people living in the northern and midwestern states, especially during the non-summer months.

Now, there is evidence to support vitamin D3 supplementation in athletes (and active individuals) to improve muscle strength.

In the article, Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Muscle Strength in Athletes: A Systematic Review (Chiang, et.al.), published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, “vitamin D3 was shown to have a positive impact on muscle strength.”

“In 2 studies, strength outcome measures were significantly improved after supplementation.  In the studies administering vitamin D3, there were trends for improved muscle strength.  Specifically, improvements in strength ranged from 1.37 to 18.75%.”

“Trials lasted from 4 weeks to 6 months and dosages ranged from 600 to 5,000 International Units (IU) per day.  Vitamin D2 was found to be ineffective at impacting muscle strength in both studies wherein it was administered.”

Please also refer to related article: Increase Your Vitamin D Intake

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Does Kinesio Taping Really Work?

12 Apr

If you’ve watched sports recently, you have probably noticed athletes wearing kinesio tape (at the 2016 Olympics, women’s beach volleyball comes to mind).  This trend has trickled down to the college and high school levels, as well (I think it has become sort of a fashion accessory).  I’ve even seen a few of our local high school athletes wearing kinesio tape.

Functional taping is nothing new, mostly to stabilize injured joints.  The specific goal of kinesio taping (KT) is to improve sport-related muscle contraction.  It is assumed that KT can facilitate and stimulate muscle function, if applied properly, due to the elastic properties of the KT.

A recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning study evaluated the effect of KT on college athletes, as it relates to vertical jump strength, power, and balance.  According to the study authors, “The KT technique was not found to be useful in improving performance in some sports-related movements in healthy college athletes; therefore, KT… should not be considered by athletes when the sole reason of the application is to increase performance during jumping and balance.” (Nunes, et. al.)

Here’s what does work for improving vertical jump strength, power, and balance:  Strength training.  Forget about the gimmicks and shortcuts.  Consult with a qualified strength and conditioning professional about a program that incorporates core and lower-extremity strength, power, and balance training.  The impact that a well-designed strength training program has on your performance will be considerably greater than wearing kinesio tape.

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Caffeine Reduces Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness

10 Apr

There is considerable documentation touting the beneficial effects of caffeine on aerobic activity and resistance training performance.  Less, however, is known about caffeine’s effect on post-exercise muscle soreness.

A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of caffeine on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  In the study, individuals who ingested caffeine one hour before resistance training reported that this strategy “resulted in significantly lower levels of soreness on day 2 and day 3,” compared with individuals who did not ingest caffeine prior to working out.  (Hurley, et.al.)

The study corroborated previous findings that caffeine ingestion immediately before resistance training enhances performance.  “A further beneficial effect of sustained caffeine ingestion in the days after the exercise bout is an attenuation of DOMS.  This decreased perception of soreness in the days after a strenuous resistance training workout may allow individuals to increase the number of training sessions in a given time period.”

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