Who Needs Carbs? Who Doesn’t?

14 Oct

V-Type_Diet_Men[1]While low-carb diets have increased in popularity over the past several years, they’re not necessarily the right choice for athletes and active individuals.  In fact, there are very few populations — people with neurological disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s), sedentary people, and those who are metabolically dysregulated (e.g., diabetes) — in which some research supports a lower-carb diet.

Here’s an article from Precision Nutrition titled, Carb Controversy: Why Low-Carb Diets Have Got It All Wrong.  Highlights from the article include:

  • Eating an appropriate amount of carbs can help you look, feel, and perform better.
  • Most of us require some level of carbohydrates to function at our best over the long-term.
  • Healthy thyroid function requires adequate energy and carb intake.
  • Research shows that lowering carb intake can adversely affect your muscle mass even if protein remained constant — insulin is crucial for building muscle.
  • The big “secret” might be a high-protein diet rather than a low-carb diet.
  • There’s a difference between processed, refined carbs and whole-grain (minimally processed), high-fiber carbs.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Get Stronger, Faster with Triple Extension Training

7 Oct

squat-jump2[1]“Triple extension” refers to a type of exercise training movement used to develop lower-extremity explosive power and force production. Triple extension training involves the hips, the knees, and the ankles. When executing a triple extension movement, all three sets of joints move from a flexed (bent) position to an extended (straight) position.  Thus, triple extension movements involve the flexion and subsequent forceful extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joints.

I am an advocate of triple extension training for the development of lower-body strength, speed, and explosive power, for virtually all athletes. Triple extension training is important for all athletes, as this movement is executed when running, jumping, kicking, swimming, throwing, hitting, blocking, and tackling.  Specifically, jumping in basketball and volleyball: pushing off the back leg to throw in baseball and football; driving through a block or tackle in football; even pushing off during swimming and diving are examples of how this movement applies to sports. Because of its broad application, triple extension training is a great way to prepare and develop the body for such explosive movements by conditioning the muscles and ligaments for these types of movements.

Ultimately, triple extension exercises build lower-extremity strength and power, increasing the amount of force you are able to generate against the ground, providing the means to run faster; jump higher; and accelerate, decelerate, and change direction more quickly, effectively, and efficiently.

The following exercises are a few examples of movements that employ triple extension:

  • Olympic lifts, such as cleans and snatches
  • Plyometrics, such as squat jumps and box jumps
  • Traditional strength training exercises such as squats and deadlifts
  • Non-traditional strength training exercises, such as  kettlebell swings and tire flips

Because these exercises are higher intensity and require greater energy expenditure, they should be performed at the beginning of your workout, after an appropriate warm-up.  Don’t go overboard with the amount of weight you use to perform these exercises. The benefits of triple extension exercises can be realized with relatively light weight. The key is to employ a full range of motion and try to execute each rep under control. Any of the exercises (above) performed with light-to-moderate weight can improve your strength and power.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Are You a “ME” Player or a “WE” Player?

1 Oct
San Antonio Spurs -- The Epitome of Unselfish, Team Play

San Antonio Spurs — The Epitome of Unselfish, Team Play

No one is bigger than the team. If you can’t do things our way, you’re not getting time here, and we don’t care who you are.” – Gregg Popovich

Basketball season — my favorite sport season — will soon be upon us.  I train lots of basketball players, and enjoy supporting them by watching them play, so I anticipate having the opportunity to watch a lot of basketball.

Invariably, there will be some good and bad individual and team play; some cohesive teamwork and some selfish, “me-first” individual play.

So, I guess the question becomes, what type of player are you?  Do you play for you or do you play for your team?  Do you play for the name on the front of your jersey, or the name on the back of your jersey?

It’s frustrating for everyone to watch players who put “getting mine” before “getting ours;” players who, instead of playing within the system, play at the expense of the system.  It’s equally frustrating to watch the coach who allows and, in effect, encourages such behavior.

I’ve always told my kids and players this:  When you spend more time, on every possession, looking for your team’s best shot, instead of spending so much time trying to find a way to get off your own shot, you will be a better player and we will be a better team.

See the floor.  Pass the ball.  Move without the ball.  Get your teammates involved.  The longer you spend with the ball in your hands, looking for your own shot, the more sluggish your team’s offense becomes.  Trust me, the ball will come back to you.  On any given possession, your shot will be your team’s best scoring opportunity.  And, when it is, do your thing.

Don’t get me wrong, winning is great and — on the surface — it can even conceal some teamwork issues.  But I think I’d rather lose with a cohesive, unselfish team than win with a “me-first” player (or players) who thinks they are bigger than the team.

Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to produce uncommon results.” – Unknown

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Don’t Let the Scale Define You

23 Sep

weight-loss[1]While I realize (statistics indicate) the average American can stand to lose a few pounds, the scale doesn’t always tell the entire story.

Your body weight is not a reflection of your worth.  It’s more productive to focus on eating clean (and not overeating), exercising, improving strength and mobility, increasing energy, and NOT a number on a scale.

There’s not necessarily a definitive relationship between body weight and overall health.  A person can have a healthy body weight, yet eat (qualitatively) poorly and be relatively physically inactive.

I don’t do a lot with scales and body weight at our facility.  I would rather concentrate on how people feel, function, and perform.  Keep in mind muscle takes up less space but weighs more than fat.

“Healthy” is not limited to any particular shape, size, or weight.  At least some of that is determined by genetics, anyway.

Part of the problem is our referent.  We try to compare ourselves with others  — unfairly and unrealistically —  instead of aspiring toward self-improvement: being better today than we were yesterday.

We all want to look and feel good, but the fads and gimmicks we chase to get there are not the answer.  In simple terms, eat cleaner, eat less, be more active, and exercise more.

An examination of ounces and pounds shouldn’t start your day any more than it should end it.  Don’t let the scale deflate your efforts if you know you’re on the right track with your nutrition and exercise plans.

Even if weight loss is part of your plan (and it’s okay if it is), detach the number on the scale from how you feel about you.  Be fair to yourself, eat well, stay active, and stay on track.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Add an Egg to Your Protein Shake

16 Sep

egg[1]Next time you prepare a post-workout drink, crack an egg (or two) in your whey protein shake.

Egg protein is a high-quality, lactose-free protein source, and makes a great complement to whey protein.  Egg protein stimulates muscle growth and has been demonstrated to increase muscle protein synthesis in university studies.

The egg white and yolk proteins are high in nutrients; one large egg contains about 6.5 grams of protein; and the egg white protein content is about 3.6 grams (slightly more than half of the total protein content).

Egg Protein Benefits

Eggs contain a high concentration of leucine.  Leucine is the major amino acid responsible for stimulating the synthesis of muscle protein after a meal (the only protein source that contains more leucine than egg is whey).

Egg protein contains 10% to 20% more leucine than most other protein sources.  It is more anabolic (muscle-building) than both soy and wheat protein.  Egg protein increases lean-body mass more than both of those protein sources — even at equal intakes.

Egg protein is quickly and easily digestible, at a rate similar to whey protein.  Consumption and digestion of egg protein leads to a large increase in plasma amino acids and commensurate muscle-building response.

Consuming egg protein promotes satiety (fullness) and can reduce short-term food intake, which may be beneficial for people looking to lose fat — but don’t want to feel like they’re starving themselves in the process.

Egg protein is also a great source of important vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Are Vegetarian Diets Appropriate for Athletes?

9 Sep

vegetarian_diets[1]Vegetarian diets have grown in popularity, over the past several years.  They have been associated with a number of health benefits including: lower risk of heart disease-related death, improved cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower rates of type 2 diabetes, lower body mass index, and lower rates of certain cancers, according to several studies.

But, aside from their effects on overall health, how do vegetarian diets affect athletic performance?

Appropriate macronutrient consumption — carbohydrate, fat, and protein — is important for vegetarian and non-vegetarian athletes.

Among the concerns related to vegetarian diets for athletes are inadequate intake of protein, creatine, ironzinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.  Deficiency of these nutrients will adversely affect performance.

In his article, Vegetarian Diets for the Physically Active Individual, Thomas M. Best, MD, PhD, FACSM, of The Ohio State University, asserts the following:

  • “Protein recommendations for vegetarian athletes are slightly higher due to the decreased digestibility of plant foods.”
  • “Exercise-induced muscle damage is commonly experienced after physical activity, and different studies showed that the amount of protein consumed seems to affect its magnitude.”
  • “The vegetarian athlete who restricts meat intake may have an altered iron status when compared to non-vegetarian athletes even with similar amounts of dietary iron intake.”

According to the author, “The currently available evidence supports neither a beneficial nor a detrimental effect of a vegetarian diet on physical performance capacity…”

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Always Keep Swinging

2 Sep

44power[1]My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.” – Hank Aaron

No one performs at the peak of his or her ability level, all the time.  You’re going to have good games and bad games.  And, sometimes, the bad games can seem to persist, and you may find yourself in somewhat of a slump (conversely, sometimes the good games will persist, too, and you’ll enjoy your “hot” streak).

The root of your slump may be mechanical, physical, psychological, or emotional.  In all likelihood, you may not even be aware of the cause of your slump, just the end (performance) result.

Attitude is everything.  More than anything else, your approach to improving your performance — when in a slump — will be most important in determining the outcome.

You may not hit the ball every time you swing the bat, but one thing is certain: you’ll never hit it if you don’t swing.  Same goes for shooting a basketball.  You’ve got to shoot if you want to score.

This same principle applies to school, work, and life.  “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” – Benjamin Franklin

Have a goal and be realistic.  Understand your strengths and areas for improvement.  Develop an action plan that is aligned with your goal, and take small steps toward your goal, every day.

Believe in yourself, don’t get discouraged, and don’t quit.  Seek help and inspiration from someone with experience and expertise in the area in which you want to improve.

Try and succeed… try and fail.  Try again.  Keep trying.  You’ll never win if you never try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Post-Workout Recovery — The Right Way

26 Aug

TruMoo-Choc_Protein-Plus-350[1]Whether you’ve just finished strength training, speed training, or a rigorous sport practice, recovering smart should be part of your plan.

Since high-intensity training tends to break down muscle, the recovery process is important to ensure that you come back stronger next time.  Here are some tips for a productive post-workout recovery:

REFUEL

Avoid junk food and opt instead for whole foods and drinks.  We like low-fat chocolate milk.  It boasts high-quality protein, several important nutrients, and an ideal 3:1 carb to protein ratio.

REST

Give your body — and your mind — some time off to rest before your next bout of exercise.  Keep in mind rest phase = growth phase.

BEGIN GRADUALLY

Don’t jump into a high-intensity workout right away.  An appropriate and effective warm-up can improve your odds of staying injury-free.  Build your volume and intensity, gradually.

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY

When you’re training, listen to the feedback your body gives you.  If you feel like you’re getting sick, run down, or injured, reduce your training load or take the day off.

HAVE A GOAL

Don’t just train to train.  Give yourself something to train for.  Develop a plan that is aligned with your goal and stay on track.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Improve Mobility: Make Your Workouts More Functional

19 Aug

functional_training3[1]

Physioball Weight Roll

We focus on functional training for our athletes.  That means movement-based — and not muscle-based — exercises make up the majority of every athlete’s workout.  In addition to developing strength, speed, agility, and athleticism, we want our athletes to improve mobility, balance, coordination, and stability.  All these components contribute to a more powerful, capable athlete.

Ultimately, the athlete’s training should reflect and support the demands and movement patterns of his or her sport.

Better mobility helps athletes reduce the incidence of injury, and also gives players a considerable advantage on the court or field.  Hip and ankle mobility are important for explosive movements like sprinting; accelerating and decelerating; changing direction; and blocking and tackling.

  • Unilateral exercises (those which load one side of the body at a time), like single-arm presses and single-leg squats, are probably more reflective of sports performance than traditional bilateral exercises (loading both sides equally).  We like alternating between unilateral and bilateral exercises, for a specific movement or muscle group, every other week, to build a stronger, more balanced musculature.
  • Perform more exercises standing, including standing on one leg.  When you sit or lie down to do an exercise, you’re not supporting your own weight and, as a result, you’re compromising the development of core strength and stability.
  • Get away from training on machines that “lock” your body into exercises that don’t require balance or stability, and those that don’t work multiple joints and muscle groups from different angles.  Opt instead for free-weight exercises using dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, or even sandbags.
  • Move through different planes of motion when you workout.  Lateral, transverse (diagonal), rotational, and anti-rotational exercises are great additions to any training regimen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Is Flexibility Overrated?

12 Aug

USA Basketball Senior National Team Training Day 1Is there a relationship between flexibility and athletic performance?  And, if there is a relationship, is more necessarily better?

Flexibility and Performance

There’s a difference between movement quantity and movement quality.  Speed, strength, power, balance, and stability are qualitative aspects of movement.  For functional movements, i.e., sports performance, quality of movement is more important than quantity.

Most elite athletes have extraordinary levels of strength, power, endurance, or balance.  And, while there are elite athletes with exceptional flexibility, there are others with only average flexibility.  Ultimately, it’s less about the extent of your range of motion (ROM) and more about how you use (what you do with) what you have.

The average person probably has the necessary range of motion to execute most sports movements.  Their deficiencies usually have little to do with range of motion.  The issue is typically attributable to strength, power, mobility, or coordination, not flexibility.

Iashvili (1983) found that active (dynamic, movement-based) ROM and not passive (static) ROM was more highly correlated with sports performance.  Arguably, any further passive static ROM developed through passive static stretching will not provide any extra benefit.

There is a considerable body of research that discourages pre-activity static stretching — due to its potential to reduce strength and power output — in favor of dynamic warmup.  Studies show that flexibility in the muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) is related to slower running and diminished running economy.  Interestingly, it has been shown that stiffer leg muscles in endurance athletes may make them more economical in terms of oxygen consumption at sub-max speeds.

Flexibility and Injury Prevention

The relationship between flexibility and injury prevention is mixed, at best.  Two studies involving soccer and hockey players revealed that players with more flexible groins do not suffer fewer groin injuries, while players with stronger adductors had less strains.  There is actually more evidence to support that lateral imbalances in strength and stability are a better predictor of injury than lack of flexibility.

There are some studies suggesting that musculoskeletal tightness may be associated with an increased likelihood of muscle strain injury.  Other studies, including Knapik, J.J. et al. 1992, found that subjects in the least flexible and most flexible quintiles were equally likely to get injured — 2.2-2.5 times more than subjects in the middle quintile (average flexibility).

The reality is that sports injuries are produced by a lot of different factors, and flexibility (or lack thereof) is only one of them.  It would be inappropriate to assign a level to the importance of flexibility as it relates to injury prevention.

For most athletes in most sports, there is probably little to be gained by increasing flexibility or range of motion.  Athletes are better off developing additional strength and stability within a particular range of motion.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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