The Importance of Core Stability in Athletes

24 Mar

If you read my blog regularly (and thank you if you do!), you know I’m a proponent of the development of – and importance of – core strength and stability.  Whether you’re an athlete or not, a strong, stable core facilitates everything you do, and every movement you make.

Over the years, I’ve published articles promoting the benefits or core training, including the rationale for core training; core strengthening exercises and workouts; and the implications of core strength, as it relates to virtually every sport movement – running, jumping, throwing, kicking, etc.  (to access more of my Core Strength & Stability articles, simply type the word “core” in the search box at the top of this blog page)

Here’s a nice resource from our friends at Bridge Athletic – authored by Megan Fischer-Colbrie – titled, The Importance of Core Stability in Athletes.  In her article, Megan discusses advantages of core stability for athletes; the role of core training in injury prevention and rehabilitation; and the advantage of building a strong foundation that starts with the core.  She also provides some useful core strengthening and stabilizing exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Spread Out Your Protein

22 Mar

If you want to build muscle, you need to get more protein.  Active individuals should aim for 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  Athletes may need even more.

So, how should you distribute your daily protein intake?

Scientists at Skidmore College (NY) found that individuals who divide their daily protein among six smaller meals, instead of three larger ones, build muscle faster.

Start your day with protein, and try to get more than half of your recommended intake by lunch.  Eggs for breakfast are a quick and easy way to get your morning protein.  Add a mid-morning protein shake, and grilled chicken (or other lean meat) and Greek yogurt for lunch.  Peanut butter is another good way to get your protein with any meal or snack, any time of day.

I like preparing a protein shake — 10-12 oz. of chocolate milk and a scoop of chocolate whey protein powder — and sipping it, throughout the day.  It’s an easy way to add 30-40 grams of protein to my daily intake.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Increase Your Vitamin D Intake

20 Mar

A lack of vitamin D can have an adverse effect on your athletic performance, according to the journal, Nutrients.  Additional research corroborates these findings, showing that there is  a positive correlation between vitamin D levels and muscle strength.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), at least 77% of Americans are vitamin D deficient.  This is especially true in the northern states, where exposure to sunshine can be scarce during the winter season (the sun plays a vital role in your body’s natural vitamin D production).

You can boost your vitamin D by increasing your consumption of whole foods like fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, and tuna), milk (and other fortified dairy products), eggs, and oatmeal (and other fortified cereals).

You can also improve your vitamin D level by adding a supplement to your daily diet.  Aim for at least 600 IU per day.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

4 Biggest Strength Training Mistakes

17 Mar

Here’s a nice resource from our friends at ASD Performance titled, 4 Biggest Strength Training Mistakes.  It’s a good overview for athletes, active individuals, and Strength & Conditioning professionals.

Mistake 1: Focusing too heavily on assistance exercises

Focus on the the core (main) lifts – the ones that activate your largest muscle groups – like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses (there are lots of others).  These exercises are functional (they will improve the way you feel, function, and perform) and yield a high return on your exercise “investment.”  Think of assistance exercises – like biceps curls – as supplemental exercises.  It’s okay to incorporate them into your workout as long as they’re not the primary focus.

Mistake 2: Not addressing weak points

Everyone has strengths and areas for improvement.  It’s easy to avoid exercises you don’t like or exercises that focus on your weak areas.  Not addressing your weak points can lead to functional strength imbalances and an increased risk of injury.  Recognize your weak(er) areas and incorporate exercises that will help turn them into strengths or, at the very least, decrease the disparity between your strengths and weaknesses.

Mistake 3: Skipping the deload phase

Like our friends at ASD Performance, we also refer to deloading/unloading as “active recovery.”  There are lots of different – evidence-based and effective – theories and strategies for the active recovery phase.  The basic concept is this: You shouldn’t train with heavy weight, high intensity, high frequency, and high volume, all the time.  Your recovery phase is crucial to maximize short- and long-term gains, as well as overall physical well-being.  Every so often – and at regular intervals – you should decrease your training intensity, frequency, and volume for some finite period of time (e.g., the last week of each three-month cycle).

Mistake 4: Light weight with too many reps

This strategy may work well for your short-term, active recovery phase but, if you want to get stronger and more powerful, you’ve got to train heavy with low repetitions.  This means working with loads of about 80%-90% of your one-rep max (1 RM) at a rep range of about 3-6 reps per set, while maintaining proper technique.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Eat Greens for More Energy

15 Mar

Eating more green vegetables can help athletes improve endurance, energy level, and delay fatigue during exercise and athletic activity.

Low energy, muscle weakness, and fatigue have long been associated with iron deficiency anemia. However, a study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that these symptoms may start well before low iron leads to anemia.

Low iron can result in a lack of energy, so athletes should eat plenty of foods that provide a healthy dose of this essential nutrient to ensure that energy levels remain high. Broccoli, spinachkale, and other dark, leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of iron. Additionally, because these foods all contain vitamin C, they provide a healthy dose of antioxidants that will help you to stay strong and healthy which can also have a positive effect on your energy levels. It’s easy to fit these foods into your meals by adding them to pastas, salads, soups, and casseroles.

Try adding a handful of spinach into a blender with your usual protein shake ingredients.  You won’t even taste it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Get More Protein In Your Diet

13 Mar

Our society is “over-carbohydrated” and “under-proteined.”

Not only do most people not get enough protein in their diets, but their distribution of protein consumption throughout the day is not balanced – relatively little protein with breakfast and lunch, and lots of protein with dinner.

In a University of Texas study, researchers found that muscle protein synthesis—the driving force behind your muscle growth—was 25 percent greater when people ate protein throughout the day (30 grams of protein per meal) compared to those who ate a bulk of their protein at dinner (10 grams for breakfast, 15 grams for lunch, and 65 grams for dinner).

Research indicates that active individuals and athletes should consume at least 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, every day (that’s 90-120 grams of protein a day for a 150-pound person).

For some people, the thought of consuming that much protein in a day can seem overwhelming, but balancing your protein intake throughout the day – along with a little strategic planning and preparation – can simplify the process.

Here’s an article from Men’s Health titled, 13 Easy Ways to Get More Protein In Your Diet.  The article lists several fast and convenient ways to boost your protein intake.

Here’s another resource – a previous blog post – with a simple but effective strategy for increasing your daily protein consumption: Increase Protein Consumption With This Simple Strategy.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Prepare Like You Intend to Perform

10 Mar

A few days ago, I published a blog post titled, You’ve Got to Practice at Game Speed.  Today, I’d like to address practice and preparation from a different angle — specifically, the athlete’s focus and intensity level.

I must admit, once again, my thoughts and observations are based on having watched my daughter’s — and our high school girls varsity basketball team’s — scrimmages.  And my comments don’t just apply to our team.  To some extent, I saw this in each and every one of the five teams that participated in the scrimmage.

Some of the pre-game warm-up activity was just awful.  I’m not referring to the drills, themselves, but rather the effort with which the drills were performed.  Many of the players’ focus and intensity level was variable, at best.  Some of them didn’t even look like they took it seriously — half-hearted passing, shooting, and overall execution.  Moving through the drills at half-speed.  Laughing, joking, and fooling around.  Do you really believe there’s no carry-over into the game?  I’m not suggesting that the student-athlete experience shouldn’t be enjoyable.  But once you lace them up and step on the court, it’s time to focus your attention and effort on the task at hand.

Representing your high school on the basketball court is a privilege… not an entitlement!  Same goes for any other sport at any other level.  Show that you respect the game, your teammates, your coaches — and yourself — by taking your decision and commitment to play a little more seriously.

The same principle applies to school, work… and life.  How do you study for your upcoming exam?  How do you prepare for your business presentation?  Are you setting yourself up for success, or sabotaging your own efforts?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Embrace the Journey

8 Mar

e00010819“The journey is the reward.” – Steve Jobs

We all have goals.  Long-term goals, short-term goals – things we aspire to accomplish or achieve.

Some of the things to which we look forward are “milestones” – like turning 21 – and don’t require much preparation.  It’s just a matter of time.

Most of our goals, though, require some planning, preparation, and effort.  There’s a process – a journey – involved in the eventual achievement of these goals.

And, although achievement may be the pinnacle of the process, the journey is the enriching, character-building part.

In sports, it’s not winning a championship that makes you better; it’s all the time you devoted to daily practice and preparation as a player and teammate.

In school, it’s not the high grade on your test or report card that makes you better; it’s all the time you spent doing homework and studying – learning – along the way.

At work, it’s not the promotion – or the raise – that makes you better; it’s all the work you put into your job – your daily commitment to excellence as an employee, entrepreneur, supervisor, or co-worker.

If life, it’s not where you get that makes you better; it’s what you did to arrive at that point.

Accomplishment is great, but the self-improvement that occurs along the way is the real prize.

Embrace the journey.  Enjoy the ride.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

You’ve Got to Practice at Game Speed

6 Mar

12307967-standard[1]As the AAU basketball season is upon us, I am reminded of watching our high school girls team — including my daughter — play their first tournament games of the season.  They did some things well and, of course, there were some areas that required improvement.

Invariably, the areas for improvement must start at practice.  At times, much of what the players did, especially offensively, looked hurried to the point that it adversely affected their execution.  It looked like the speed of the game made the players (think they had to) rush their shooting — jump shots and layups — as well as their offense in general.

My point is this: Finishing a layup, when you’re moving at full-speed, in “traffic,” is a tough thing to do.  If, when you practice layups, your drives to the basket are done at about 75% speed and uncontested, it’s unlikely you’ll develop the focus and muscle memory to control your body and shoot with the proper “touch” when you’re driving to the basket, full-speed, in a game situation.  It’s essential to practice like you play… at game speed.

The same principle applies to your speed and agility training.  When you perform your exercises and drills, it’s important to get yourself moving at full speed.  If you practice and train at less than full speed, what do you expect to happen in game situations?

If you’re a coach or trainer, here’s a speed and agility training tip:  You must allow adequate time for full recovery between exercises and drills.  If we want athletes to perform these drills at 100% effort, allowing for full recovery is necessary.  Otherwise, what we’re doing is conditioning.  There’s nothing wrong with conditioning, if that’s your goal, but it’s different from speed and agility training.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Speed is Good, Quickness is Better

3 Mar

072613Athletes1_t670[1]Speed is a difference maker in virtually every sport. For an athlete, it can mean a competitive advantage. For a team, it can mean the difference between winning and losing.

But, as important as speed is (and it is important), very few sports require only straight-line speed. Change of speed and direction, and the ability to react quickly, are critical to athletic performance, and as important as — if not more important than — linear speed.

Quickness (agility) is the ability to react and change speed — accelerate (speed-up) and decelerate (slow-down) — and change direction quickly and effectively. Agility is a skill that can be developed through a variety of drills, which should reflect the demands and movement patterns of the sport. Since most sports require reaction and agility, an athlete’s training plan should incorporate some type of agility training.

  • Agility training should involve movement in all directions, and require the athlete to alternate among forward running, backpedaling, and lateral movement.
  • Drills that require the athlete to alternate between acceleration and deceleration should be a component part of agility training.
  • Agility training should also incorporate an element of reaction, with the athlete being required to react to a verbal or visual command, or mimic/mirror the movement patterns of a training partner (reflective drills).

There are lots of great resources for agility training. I like Developing Agility and Quickness, part of the NSCA’s Sport Performance Series, by Dawes and Roozen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

%d bloggers like this: